BofA Service Outage Opens Window for Small Banks
No company can promise that it will never experience a service outage, but big banks ought to be on notice by now that customers have little tolerance when stuff happens to them. Given the inevitability of disruptions, what really counts is how a company responds. Customers will be more forgiving and more loyal if they receive personal attention -- and fast. That's where small banks have a big advantage.
02/05/13 5:00 AM PT
Bank of America's online banking operations crashed last Friday, cutting customers off from their accounts and reportedly disrupting the customer phone service to boot. It was the 1st day of the month -- a day when customers typically access their accounts to make sure paychecks have been deposited and to pay bills. Customers took to social media to gripe; the bank, for its part, responded with directions to other channels that were working.
Later that day, the bank posted a notification on its Facebook page that its systems were back up: "Sorry to all of our customers for the inconvenience today. We will continue to monitor throughout the night to make sure you get the service you expect from us and that you deserve."
Customers that were charged fees as result of the outage were advised to contact the bank.
Bank of America did not respond to our request to comment for this story.
An Opportunity for Smaller Banks
Bank of America is hardly the only bank to experience online service outages. Hackers have been targeting financial institutions in recent months for various reasons, shutting down or hampering Web access to users' accounts. Customers so far haven't been the victims of financial or identity theft as a result of these service outages.
Still, these incidents do little to curry favor with customers -- many of whom have no love for their big banks anyway.
"Tech glitches can happen to anyone, but mistrust in banks these days -- particularly bigger banks -- has never been higher," David Johnson, principal with Strategic Vision, told CRM Buyer.
"This is an episode that smaller banks could definitely use to try to lure customers away," he suggested. A smaller bank would be unlikely to promise that its technology would never fail -- but it could promise, with some degree of credibility, that its response to such an event would be more personal -- and probably faster.
"That is a winning theme for smaller banks," Johnson said.
A Tech Guide for Smaller Banks
Bank of America's outage would appear, in short, to be the ideal opportunity for small banks to once again ramp up their efforts to lure customers away.
That said, even small banks have to have a grip on tech issues if they want to remain competitive, said Steve Rigell, president of Preemptis.
"The IT department really must understand the customer experience and the degree to which customers rely on their systems," he told CRM Buyer. "An IT department that communicates with its external customers, whether through the marketing department, the customer service department or directly, is an exceptional IT department and has the potential to excel."