Communication flop of the month

TSB, one of Britain’s largest banking providers, was caught in a communications nightmare when an IT systems upgrade failed.Over the weekend of April 27–29, 2018, TSB, one of Britain’s largest banking providers, was caught in a communications nightmare when an IT systems upgrade failed. Customers were left unable to access their account or money for days, yet the company’s handling of the fiasco left a lot to be desired. 

Jade Ziola-Sammons, senior account executive

Already hailed as the ‘Flop of the Month’ by the world’s leading PR and communications publication, PRWeek, the handling of the TSB IT system upgrade from last week wasn’t a masterclass in crisis communications.

The five million-plus customers of the UK wide bank were warned on Friday April 27, 2018, that they would be unable to access their accounts online until Sunday evening due to a major IT system upgrade. However, come Monday morning, many customers still couldn’t access their accounts and payments were being declined.

By Tuesday, the company’s social media accounts and staff in high street branches were overwhelmed with questions and complaints from irate customers.

On Tuesday afternoon, the CEO of TSB, Paul Pester, took to Twitter — having not posted on the social media platform since March 27 — and made a series of comments offering his apologies and asking customers to “please bear with us”. He then prematurely assured customers later that day that all services were back up and running.

Unfortunately, they weren’t.

An early-morning interview on Radio 5 Live and another flurry of blundering social media updates from Pester still left customers in the dark about when the issue would be resolved.

Being prepared for the worst-case scenario, particularly with customer facing products and services, is vital in the era of social networking and instant news.

Having a comprehensive crisis communication plan, should something go awry, means that your team won't be left scrambling around trying to appease angry customers without knowing what the official communications line is. It also means that everyone in the company, from the CEO through to the customer service team gives a consistent message.

Learn from TSB’s blunder and speak to Stone Junction about putting together a strategy that will put your entire team on the same page, before the crisis happens — not after it. You can avoid being next month’s flop by emailing sayhello@stonejunction.co.uk or calling 01785 225416.

Jade Sammons

Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.

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