Natwest failed to support its customers on Twitter during IT collapse
Despite leaps in followers and mentions of @natwest_help, extended branch hours and weekend openings, the bank’s Twitter account did not actively extend its presence or boost replies until late in the crisis, opting for a ‘business as usual approach’ not in line across the bank’s other support channels.
On the 21st June 2012, The RBS group suffered a computer failure which knocked out much of the banks group’s ability to process payments through its computer system. The problem lasted almost a week in which time over 11 million NatWest customers were affected.
The unprecedented failure lead the bank to extend opening hours on weekdays and open branches at the weekend, something that had never been done before.
A new report from BirdSong: Social Media Reconnaissance identified a number of elements that point to Natwest failing to scale its Twitter support in line with the measures taken by branch staff and call centres.
As the scale of the problems unfolded so the followers of @NatWest_Help escalated, growing by over 200% during the problems, taking the bank from one of the least followed to one of the most followed of UK Bank accounts. At the same time the number of mention @natwest_help grew 8 fold.
The report points to a slow reaction from the bank. Despite the leap in followers and mentions, the bank maintained standard tweeting hours of 9 – 5 at a time when branches were being opened later. It took until the 30th of June for the bank to start maintaining a later presence on Twitter, until 19:00.
Furthermore, with branches being opened on the weekend of 23/24th June, the Twitter account was left to broadcast pre defined messages offering no active support. One tweet contained a link for online help. The link from this one tweet alone generated 800 clicks on the day (Bit.ly) which indicated an active audience seeking support.
At the outset of this crisis, the bank boosted the number of tweets with standard messages, “We continue to experience technical issues with out service this morning..”. It took until the 27th June for the bank to actively respond to many requests.
The report concludes the bank could have been quicker at responding to its customers at a time when other elements of its support operations were ramping up service.
Follower flock in a crisis
When brands face a national ‘crisis’ so its Twitter followers instantly grow. This was the case for both Virgin Atlantic and British Airways in December 2010 and is the case for O2 today. Since the start of national coverage disruption, the @O2 account has leapt by 50%.
The ever present threat of competition
An active Twitter audience is one that needs to be considered both for customer satisfaction and the threat of competition. Natwest shares followers with rival banks including @AsklloydsTSB, @barclaysonline and @santanderuk - disruption and lack of customer support could be an opportunity for rivals.