What Made Target.com's Missoni Mess Worse Than New Code? Even Newer Customer Service

As customer complaints continue to pour in about Target's Missoni Tuesday—canceled orders, repeated delays, payment cards charged for orders lost in the site's crash—one question still stands out: How could Target have so completely butchered the customer-service aspect?

True, the site crashed, and orders were lost and scrambled that way; yes, merchandise sold out, so orders were canceled and delayed; and yes, it was a very different site design, one that caused many shoppers to think the site had crashed when it was in fact up. But customers are also complaining about not just what happened but how they were treated.

Consumer Web sites are providing a steady stream of customer reports of customer-service reps hanging up on customers, giving incorrect and contradictory information, and even laughing at customers—and not just during the first chaotic day (when exhaustion was sure to set in and tempers were bound to fray in the customer-service call center) but also as much as a week later. How could that part go so wrong? After all, Target has been doing customer service for years.

Except it hasn't, at least not for Target.com. So far as we know, Amazon has been handling Target.com's customer service for the past decade, along with everything else associated with the E-Commerce site. That means the customer-service department that screwed up so badly on Missoni Tuesday was even newer than the Web site's code. Why? Because although that custom code took two years to develop, a call center is viewed as a commodity—meaning those people were either hired or brought in at the last minute.

On top of everything else that went wrong, that made Target's IT problems just that much worse. Seems that Target is only now starting to understand the full costs of having outsourced to Amazon. Loss of control? That it knew. Loss of experience? That's the cost it's just starting to understand.