“We do not make these decisions lightly.” That was the message that everyone calling the corporate office heard. But no one believed them. Why?
Recently the Target Corporation announced the closing of 12 stores. In their press release, they blamed declining profits for the stores. Those are critical criteria for any corporation but they don’t quite tell the whole story. Here is why.
#1. They look back instead of to the future.
I live near one of those stores and have become a loyal customer. I’ve talked to enough neighbors who note how the store’s closing was a shock, but not because of the poor financial reports. Had they closed the store in 2009 or 2010, we would have understood. But why now?
We live in a booming area with approximately 15,000 to 20,000 housing units being constructed within 5 miles. The six lane roads are already crowded, delivering heavy traffic by the store. If the old mantra of “location, location, location” still stands, Target is being short sighted – if not down right stupid. The future of this area is incredibly bright, yet they decided to close the store now. Why?
Without a better reason, we are left to assume that Target leaders are negligent in their strategy, looking back instead of forward.
Disruptive leaders look to the future, sensing the opportunities and then seizing them at the perfect time. Target, like other failing leaders, look to the past to justify short-sighted decisions. That is a sure sign of failure.
#2. They refuse to Communicate authentically.
Many neighbors have called, emailed and signed a petition to keep the store open. In the usual corporate speak, everyone got the same canned response. “Target does not make these decisions lightly.” They refuse to give any more detail which frustrates anyone seeking a more thorough answer. It makes one wonder if they have a hidden agenda.
Fans of the store are not naive. We know that Target is struggling and these closings may indeed be indicative of much bigger issues. However, that is all the more reason to communicate with those that are already raving fans.
We live in a age where smart leaders build rapport with their customers through genuine connection. Yet, Target refuses to engage. When asked if someone would get back to me, the representative robotically repeated, “we only communicate through the media.” Interestingly enough, by the time I got off the phone, there was yet another marketing email waiting. They find a way to target an ad for me but would not craft a connection. Failing to connect is a sign of failure in the current communication age.
The closest thing Target ever did to listening was asking us to fill out an extensive survey. The survey was far too long and detailed, requiring approximately 15 minutes. They wanted that feedback for every visit. That was too much. It needed to be shorter and configured differently.
Failing to communicate tells loyal customers that you don’t appreciate the value of authentic communication. That won’t cut it in the modern world. Target and any other leaders will fail if they don’t change this approach.
Leaders disrupt the market by building a genuine connection with their audience. That requires initiating the interaction, listening, caring and sharing. Target doesn’t seem to understand this aspect of leadership.
#3. Customers do not Trust them.
Organizations are successful when they disrupt the world of their customers. Target did that. We welcomed Target 9 years ago, making it our store. We changed our habits not simply because the store was closer but because we enjoyed shopping there, building relationships with the employees whether they were checkers, managers or pharmacy workers. Before long, they knew us by name. In the process, we trusted them.
We grieved when they had a power outage that shut down the frozen and refrigerated food section for about a week. We grieved again when it happened within a few months. We started to lose trust when they couldn’t supply the products we needed and didn’t seem to have a good explanation for the second outage.
We also lost trust with the credit card breech. We trusted them with our financial data and they proved unworthy of that trust. How can a company expect to succeed or disrupt the status quo if they lose the trust of their customers?
So maybe we should have seen it coming. Maybe we were blinded by our loyalty to a brand or convenience or even relationships with employees. Maybe we should have treated the big box store in the same impersonal approach that they have treated us. They don’t seem to care that we trusted them. While we all understand profits and losses, we no longer trust that they know what they are doing. We no longer believe what they are saying. We no longer care to give them our business.
Disruptive leaders build a climate of trust as a foundation to a profitable business. Target doesn’t seem to appreciate that principle.
The Bottom Line
What Target doesn’t seem to understand is that customers cared more than they did. Target leadership will fail in this digital age because they don’t care enough to connect with loyal fans. They don’t know how to leverage their leadership power. The way to unleash the ultimate(TM) profits is by caring, communicating and creating a profitable future together. Anyone who thinks otherwise is doomed to fail.
3D PWR Tip: Take your business far beyond a simple transaction. Build raving fans.
(c) 2015 Murfield International, Inc.
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Dr. Loren Murfield works with aspiring and emerging leaders so they can leverage their power to do what followers and critics think is impossible. This often involves working with them to develop their disruptive ideas and write their stories of rapid and radical change. How could you leverage your leadership power by sharing your story of disruption? Contact Dr. Murfield today.
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