MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Target registers are up and running after a nationwide outage Saturday disrupted shopping for hours.

But the company’s response is just as important as fixing the issue. Jon Austin, a communications consultant who worked in crisis management for Northwest Airlines for years, said Target did a pretty good job handling the situation but said they could have communicated more real-time updates to customers.

When the entire Target register system went dark Saturday afternoon, word traveled quickly online. Some even labeled it “Tarmageddon.”

“The first news of this probably went out on social media – somebody standing in line checking their phone,” Austin said.

When things go haywire, companies call Austin. He knows the playbook to follow when disaster strikes.

“There are some generally accepted rules. One is be fast, be alert there are no weekends or holidays or evenings anymore,” Austin said.

It took some time, but Target eventually tweeted, acknowledging the situation and promising updates as soon as possible

“I’d give them a B. They were fast, sounds like they were on top of it, they got the system back up,” Austin said.

The next update on Twitter came about three hours after the initial tweet, saying the problem was fixed.

“It took them probably longer than they wanted, certainly, and I would say during that period they could have maybe communicated a few more times,” Austin said.

But Austin sees improvement from the way Target handled its 2013 data breach.

“They were really quiet for too long on that one,” he said. “I think that was widely judged inside and outside of Target as the wrong strategy.”

Austin says companies have gone out of business for mishandling situations like this but does not think this incident will hurt the powerhouse company.

“I suspect five weeks from now, five days from now, based on what we know now a lot of people won’t remember that this event happened,” Austin said.

It’s Target’s job this week to redirect the conversation, but Austin said customers are generally forgiving if you communicate with them.

“I think you have to make it right,” Austin said. “Then all of a sudden, just a little bit maybe, people feel better about going to Target then they did before.”

According to a Target spokesperson, the corporation also received reports Sunday of payment issues at stores.

Target issued the following statement in response:

“Like many other companies, Target uses NCR as a vendor to help accept payments, and on Sunday afternoon NCR experienced an issue at one of their data centers. While this was not an issue within Target’s technology system, Target was unable to process select card payments at some stores for about 90 minutes. The issue is now resolved and payments are going through normally. Additionally, we can confirm that this was not a security-related issue and no payment information was compromised at any time. Although this was unrelated to Saturday’s issue, we know many guests had a frustrating shopping experience in our stores this weekend. For that, we are truly sorry. We never want to disappoint any guests and we’re working tirelessly to ensure these issues don’t happen again.”

Erin Hassanzadeh

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