Stessa Cohen here. A couple of years ago, we went through the initial shockwaves of the financial crisis. A couple of financial services firms like Lehman Brothers and some others suddenly went out of business. Consumers had questions, were fearful of what would happen to their retirement and bank accounts.
Two years ago, I, along with other Banking research colleagues, wrote several posts about the importance of transparent, readily available customer communications and why it was necessary during the financial crisis. And why it might be important for banks to address problems upfront.
Now, Chase’s online banking functionality has been offline since Monday evening through much of Wednesday (13-15 September 2010) for a number of days. On 16 September, an explanation appeared sometime on Wednesday evening or Thursday.
Let me be clear: Fixing the problems are uppermost on the minds of Chase IT and product staff right now. I am sure — I know — that they were and are extremely busy and working several 16 or 20 hour or longer days. But the lack of communication left a void. And a missed opportunity.
The financial crisis offered banks an opportunity to reevaluate their customer communications and figure out to incorporate new means — eg social media — into their repetoire. Some did. Some did not.
Instead of hearing about the outage directly from Chase, customers probably read about it on twitter. And from maybe more traditional, reliable news sources, suc h as online newspapers (disclosure: this article does quote me ), and news aggregation sites. Over a couple of days, consumer panic, fear, anger grew, which may lead to more serious fallout from the outage (from the NY Times):
A system outage of this length communicates to me that they really don’t have a handle on their systems,” said Vic Caterina, a Chase customer in Chicago who does all of his banking online. “My relationship with Chase is now under reconsideration.”
Direct communication with customers might have reduced customer frustration that grew to anger and threats and thoughts about switching banks.
So, what’s the answer? A twitter account or Facebook page ? Social media is going to solve Chase’s (and other bankss) problems?
Yes: If your customers are there. But remember, consumers go a lot of places. They are at Youtube.com and Linkedin. Are those potential places to communicate?
Communicate via all available methods. Don’t expect your customers to come to you.
But if they do, inform them. Not by press release, but straightforward, honest as you can communication. Make it easy and simple for customers to know where to find you.
Plan for customer questions and concerns at all channels and destinations, whether at the branch, drive-up window, ATM, telephone banking, contact center.
Remember the power of the social network. Use social media to spread the word. Customers can help by spreading the word to their friends and contacts in their social networks. Doing so will also help the bank manage the overflow of customer demands on branches and contact centers, for example.
Too many social media outlets to manage? Might be time to consider tools to manage that. Of course, Gartner has you covered with the Hype Cycle for Social Software 2010
I hope the IT problem have fixed the tech problems. I do. I also hope others at the bank see the customer communication opportunity and seize it.