Major Changes Coming to Target – Should Shorter Lines Be One of Them?


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John Mulligan, COO of Target, announced major changes last week. According to Mr. Mulligan, who has been COO for the last six months, “starting a shopping trip through Target’s app or online and finishing it in a store will become more seamless, with text notifications when online orders for in-store pickup are ready. Online orders will ship faster, as Target transitions more of its physical stores to double as fulfillment centers.”

However, when I read a sampling of the March 3rd USA Today article’s comments from customers, many were focused on having more cashier lines open and less wait times. Did Target overlook something in their plan? True, successful retailers are devising strategies to merge online shopping and brick and mortar. But, no matter what design is formulated; people/customers do not like to wait in long lines. Plain and simple, customers become frustrated waiting. The “human connection” touch point Target and others are trying to create is broken when there are long lines and no employees to help. Customers leave the store irritated and that negative feeling is hard to shake.

The headline of the article reads, “Major Changes Coming to Target as It Focuses on Grocery, Customer Service”.  In addition to trying to merge online with brick and mortar, Target is adding more grocery items as another way to encourage in-store traffic; another great idea. According to the COO, Target is also focusing on more personalized service. Mr. Mulligan refers to the Target customer as a guest – a good concept.  However, do you invite a guest into your home and make them wait in line to hang their coat or sit down?

All retailers need to reinvent themselves. If Target wants to merge their online and brick and mortar service by encouraging more online customers to pick up merchandise in person and include groceries, kudos to them.  The interaction should be utilized as another opportunity for Target employees to make a human-to-human connection. Creating and building a relationship between Target and its customers is golden. Each individual customer has his or her own definition of a good customer experience but no “guest” would ever include waiting in line as part of good customer service.  I always advocate that the check out counter should be renamed the “welcoming counter” and retailers miss the perfect chance to personalize the customer experience.

If customers think they will need to wait on long lines to pick up their online orders then Target’s plan will haven fallen short from the start. The plan must include the basics of sufficient and welcoming staff to provide good customer service. If the basics aren’t in place, nothing else ultimately matters.


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