HSBC and social customer service
Last week’s IT problems at HSBC demonstrate how quickly a customer service issue can develop in the age of social media. On Friday afternoon the bank suffered an IT outage on its mainframe which affected online banking, ATM and some customers using debit cards in stores. While the problems lasted just over 2 hours, Friday afternoons are amongst the busiest time for banks, with HSBC’s 15 million UK customers unable to withdraw money for nights out or organise their finances ahead of the weekend.
Frustrated consumers turned immediately to social media to vent their anger, detailing how they’d been unable to pay for meals using debit cards or get money from machines.
The #hsbc hashtag began to trend on Twitter, spreading the news further and attracting the attention of journalists, who began to write articles on the subject.
Moving away from the circumstances of the problem itself, what was impressive was the response of HSBC through social media. It immediately began tweeting about the problem, offering reassurance to customers that it was an IT issue, not a security breach and there was no threat to customer details. Indeed it seems that the social media and press office team was better informed than some branch staff who didn’t seem to know when the system was likely to be back up.
The fast response shows both that HSBC had a crisis management plan that it immediately put into action, but also that it had focused resources on monitoring and listening to social media, enabling the bank to respond quickly and ensure customers knew what was going on. So, while customers were obviously unhappy HSBC was able to keep them informed and mitigate the potential damage to its reputation.
HSBC is obviously not the only organisation to have had to deal with fast-developing crises – the recent Blackberry outage and previous flight disruption from volcanic ash clouds demonstrate that these sort of problems do occur regularly. However at times like this what customers want is clear communication and a quick fix of the problem – a good customer service response minimises frustration and actually helps increase loyalty as customers feel valued