Why communication is essential when it goes wrong

On Saturday Natwest and HSBC suffered a huge computer fail “due to maintenance work” meaning customers were unable to access their accounts.  Reports suggest 15 million people have been affected.

Not only online but their cards were declined in shops as systems could not get authorisation.   Credits from employers and benefits agencies have not been updated.    Direct debits and standing orders have not been paid out.

This left millions of customers with empty fuel tanks and bare cupboards. And facing charges for late payments that were not made.

Many irate customers took to Twitter to vent their anger and sheer frustration at the lack of communication from both banks.   And yet as this unfolded there was no official word from the banks.   The joy of Twitter is that had the bank posted a tweet then the message would have been “RT’ed” so millions could see it.  The banks though were silent.

Communication you see is vital.

Things happen.   Systems fail, we all know that.   What we want though is to be told about it and updated.

My job in property management is all about communication.   A tenant calls me and tells me his washing machine isn’t working.   I call the landlord who tells me he “will get back to me”.   Three days pass and the tenant calls again, furious this time as far he is concerned “nothing has been done”.     He doesn’t know I have chased the landlord everyday because I didn’t call the tenant back and update him.   I am now fighting an uphill battle of getting the tenant back on side, he doesn’t want to wait two days now for an engineer, he is demanding a new washing machine be delivered that afternoon.   All because he didn’t know what had been going on.

The same with Natwest.   Why did their website not have an apology on the front page?   Today there is still no apology or explanation on the website.   There are no posters or notices in branches.    15 million customers effectively being ignored.

Why did they not insist that every branch manager keep the branch open until 4pm to talk to customers?   Permit them to go in and get say £50 of emergency money out?  That would have gone some way to helping their customers.

Instead they have been left in silence.  Furious.   Over an entire weekend.   Their anger and frustration building.   Heaven only knows how the employees will be feeling going to work today knowing that every customer coming in is going to want their blood.

I recently made a major mistake and left a tenant moving into a property on a Saturday afternoon with no inventory clerk, and therefore no keys.   No harm was done.   We got a clerk there two hours late when we realised my error.   Did I shrug my shoulders and say “Oh well, they are in now”?

No I sent same day delivery flowers with a very apologetic note, taking full responsibility and giving them my personal number to call if they wanted to discuss the matter further.

They aren’t my client, the letting agent is, the agent pays the invoice, but I want that tenant to use that letting agent again so it was important to me to make it right.

The same way that it is vitally important that Natwest now put this right.  And fast.  Or they are going to find themselves with a large number of people leaving for an alternative bank.

“At Natwest, we’ll make your everyday banking easy”  seems a long way short of the mark right now.


This is my Day 7 entry into NaBloPoMo where I have committed to blog everyday for the month of November

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