I'm left in awe that a commercial giant like Standard Bank can exhibit such utter incompetence when there's an IT problem.
Evidently as a result of some sort of attack, their Internet Banking service went down yesterday. They claim it was for a very brief period. However, over an 18 hour period (only during office hours) I still got answers from their Internet Banking call centre conceding that there were problems.
Yesterday afternoon I called into Talk Radio 702's Eyewitness News Desk to report the problem and was told they'd look into it but there was only one person at Standard Bank permitted to talk to the media - Erik Larsen - and he 'wasn't always easily available'. Hmm. What's the point in paying him then?
I don't care (as the marketing people have subsequently told me) that the attack affected the bank's 'ability to communicate with its customers'. Never ever, when there's been a problem with either Standard Bank or Vodacom 3G service, has either organisation taken the trouble to SMS or e-mail. Yet they BOTH boast cutting-edge technology capability. Bizarre.
If you try calling the Standard Bank Internet Banking call centre out of office hours in a time of service failure like this, you get a recording telling you what their office hours are. Um, Not helpful.
Here's what I think the difficult-to-reach Mr. Erik Larsen may want to consider:
1. Don't wait for hours to decide that this IT glitch is not a 5 minute fix.
2. You will NOT panic customers by immediately sharing problems. You'll get their understanding, their respect and maybe they can go to a plan B (i.e. into a branch) because they know what's going on because - guess what? - you told them. Gosh, isn't that easy enough?
3. When you have a problem, put extra people on the phones and keep your call centre open longer hours to deal with the crisis. Or is your salary bill and the bottom line the only consideration? Isn't reputation management on the radar any longer?
4. When you finally do get your part of the problem sorted, brief your call centre properly. I called this morning (Standard are pulling the recording) and got told explicitly 'If you're a Vodacom 3G customer, the problem lies on their side' or words to that effect. But quite blatantly blaming Vodacom. Not fair, much though I can't commend Vodacom service.
5. I wonder if there's actually a document or crisis communications plan lying covered with dust in a filing cabinet at Standard Bank, that was once put together by some PR agency? Get it out, dust it off, update it and implement it the next time things go wrong.
6. Their marketing person (she tried real hard to mollify me) told me today 'We had no means of communicating with our customers'. Huh? I said: What about the media? Radio in particular? How about (when you know it's going to be largely wireless internet customers being denied access), using Social Media like Twitter or facebook to to get the message out there? How come they didn't pick up on all my tweets of frustration?
All in all, a horrible communications and reputation management failure. It should be an embarrassment and of deep concern to Standard Bank's shareholders. If they can't handle something on this scale, I'd hate to see their response to a real crisis. Jaco Maree, the Standard Bank CEO, may want to revisit how his organisation connects (or doesn't) with its stakeholders.
Because I still can't 14:10 29th October '09 (twenty five hours later) get into the Standard Bank website, here's a little screensnatch off Google, of Erik Larsen's contact details. File 'em. You may need 'em.