Lately, I’ve been having a nagging sense of deja vu. Like a small rock in my shoe. It’s the feeling that internet services can’t be relied on. Back in Y2K, everyone expected the entire system to fail at any given moment. Broken links and sites were fairly common. People just dealt with it. No one expected an email returned right away. Fast forward a decade to cloud computing. Internet services are expected to be even more available than their real world counterparts.
We’ve become accustomed to internet services being as reliable as phone service, available 99 percent of the time. In reality, we’re not quite there. Companies that offer software as a service need to be prepared for crisis communications if and when they experience a service interruption.
Chase.com is an instructive case in what not to do during unplanned down time. On Monday September 13, users began experiencing problems logging in, then the banking service went down – for three days. Late Wednesday, Chase finally restored full service though users continued to report issues. During that time, Chase did little to calm its customers who relied on its internet banking service.
One needs to make friends, before they need to rely on them. Not after. As the crisis began, just when Chase most needed good friends to help tell its story, it had no one to turn to.
To understand the frustration, check out #chasesucks or #chasefail on Twitter. The “I Hate Chase” pages on Facebook are experiencing explosive growth renaisance and with no other alternative, people have taken to venting on what appears to be an unofficial profile.
This became a full blown communications disaster for Chase. It will be interesting to see how Chase responds from here.
What should they have done differently? Many things, not the least of which is having a backup system in place. They also could have leveraged their past social platforms like Chase Community Giving which has 2.5 million followers on Facebook. One thing is certain, they let the situation get out of hand by not having a social media presence in place and ready to communicate with its customers who mainly interact with the bank online. Here’s a few things they could have done to mitigate the situation:
· Maintain and monitor social media channels. Chase not only wasn’t listening to their audiences online, they didn’t even have a way to communicate. Despite the fact that Chase.com has 16 million monthly uniques, it has no managed page on Facebook and @chasebank has been hijacked and now suspended on Twitter. Nothing could be found on YouTube outside a promotion for its Blueprint feature. That means for many of its customers, Chase couldn’t be found.
· Treat online posts seriously. Like Chase, many companies don’t treat online conversations with the same seriousness as traditional media coverage. Big mistake. Things can get ugly quick online.
· Maintain and monitor a corporate blog. This would have allowed Chase to at least address the situation.
· Respond. Even if the situation is unclear and evolving, engaging customers is an inherently re-assuring step.
· Coordinate response with company spokespersons, and of course, customer service. Sending confusing or contradictory messages is like throwing gas on the fire. The message should be consistent across traditional, digital and social channels. Rightfully, many of Chase’s customers became alarmed at the situation. Frustrated they couldn’t pay their bills, afraid their identity had been stolen and generally worried about the safety of their hard-earned money. Customer service, although reassuring and able to help with transactions had no explanations.
· Be conversational. It helps to appear human. Customers are more likely to forgive people than corporations.
· Communicate often. It’s better to deliver a little information often than go long periods hoping to tell a complete story.
· Use paid media like search to get the message out quick. Sometimes, waiting for earned media to work isn’t fast enough.
Arm chair crisis coordinators, what do you think?