As I write, the whole of NatWest’s online banking system has been down for at least five hours. I know it is not working because I am trying to use it. I know that the problem arose at least five hours ago because the first tweet with the NatWest hash tag #NatWest is timed at five hours ago. One user observed that the only words on his otherwise empty screen were “Helpful Banking”
Of course, it is just a guess that the only casualty is the online banking system. My first assumption was that the problem was at my end and I wasted some time investigating that. Then I began to wonder if, perhaps, the whole bank had gone down. That was the question posed by one tweeter about three hours ago who asked “Have NatWest gone titsup?”.
The many tweets on the subject at least reassure me that the problem is not mine alone. The consensus seems to favour a computing failure rather than a cataclysmic banking failure.
The point, however, is this. Why is NatWest not using all available resources to reassure its customers and keep us informed? It would not be too difficult, I imagine, to put a warning on the home page through which one accesses the logon. It would be even easier if the bank itself used Twitter as a means of communicating – even NHSDirect, one of the most reviled of UK institutions, is brave enough to take part in Twitter discussions.
I observed in a recent article that making use of new media forms is not merely a matter of pushing out one’s own messages. It can be used to track comments made about you, whether positive or adverse and, as this incident shows, it could be engaged as a means of mollifying customers and keeping them informed.
There are three possibilities here. One is that the bank has in fact gone down – that seems unlikely. Another is that they hope no one will notice and that they will get through the last working day of the month (pay-day for many people) without attracting adverse publicity, if only they keep their heads down. The most likely answer is that, for all the millions they spend each year on promotion and reputational management, no one has actually applied their minds to the subject.
PS: A sharp-eyed tweeter has just found an apology for the failure buried in the “Any Questions” section of the NatWest web site. Why didn’t I think of looking there?