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Natwest Social Media Crisis – The Importance of Immediacy in a Social Media Crisis

Natwest Social Media Crisis – The Importance of Immediacy in a Social Media Crisis

In the digital age we live in, when we are not happy with the service a company has provided us, more often than not we turn to Facebook and Twitter to seek immediate support.  But what happens when the right information isn’t readily available to us?

natwest-5 A new report from Birdsong:  Social Media Reconnaissance reveals a number of failings by Natwest in actively supporting its customers via Twitter during the IT collapse in late June.  Despite the surge in followers and influx of mentions of @natwest_help, extended branch hours and weekend openings, the bank’s Twitter account did not actively extend its social media presence or increase replies until very late on in the crisis, choosing a ‘business as usual approach’.

The new report from Bird Song: Social Media Reconnaissance showed numerous elements which shows that Natwest failed to increase its Twitter support to match the measures taken by branch staff and call centres.

As the problems unfolded, the followers of @Natwest_Help escalated at a rapid rate, growing by over 200% during the crisis, taking the bank from one of the least followed to one of the most followed UK bank accounts.  During this time the number of mention @natwest_help grew 8 times more than its original amount.

The report also reveals the slow reaction time from the bank.  Despite the influx in followers and mentions, the bank maintained standard tweeting hours of 9-5 at a time when branches were being opened later.  It took a week for the bank to start maintaining a later presence on Twitter, until 7p.m.

In addition to this, for the weekend that the bank opened, the Twitter account was left to broadcast automated messages, offering no active support, only a link to direct followers to online help.  The tweet alone generated 800 links (Bit.ly) of people seeking support.
natwest-crisis-email

This has also been the case for both Virgin Atlantic and British Airways in December 2010 and was the case for O2 last week.  Since the start of the national coverage disruption, the @O2 account has grown by 50%.

National crises such as the Natwest fiasco, demonstrate just how dependent we are on the web and computer networks, and the ability to adapt to the consequences of a major systems breakdown.  Therefore it is imperative that companies such as Natwest act immediately, enforcing a social media strategy that would see to support those who have been affected.  Putting social media on the back burner could have a detrimental effect on the reputation of the brand, resulting in a leap of unwanted negative comments, which ultimately could lead to customers taking their business elsewhere.

 

Cover image courtesy of lamoix, flickr.com

How O2 avoided an online PR crisis

Back in the day, life was that little bit simpler: You only had one phone number per friend to remember, there was never the threat of ugly pictures of yourself popping up on the Internet (you didn’t have the Internet!) and what’s more a customer complaint stayed between the company and the customer.

Then came along the digital revolution, and the rest is history. Now, if a customer needs to complain they have a choice of soapboxes to stand on. Customers are not only making the business aware of their issues but thanks to the multiple public platforms available to them, they are also broadcasting their complaint to other members of the public. It’s very interesting to see how a company chooses to respond to these very public complaints, in my opinion, it could be exactly what makes them or breaks them.

So, when O2 services went down last week it was only natural that O2 customers turned to Twitter to vent their frustration. O2’s response? They replied humorously:

How O2 avoided an online PR crisis

 

Now, this was either very clever of them or very stupid, and I suspect for the first hour everyone was holding their breath. But after responding to hundreds of angry tweets in this manner, others started noticing and joining in the fun.  However, there was still a tiny bit of resentment on the customers’ part

How O2 avoided an online PR crisis

The risk paid off, turning their company crisis into a great PR opportunity. The O2 Twitter account soon became a must watch online with the bitter anger the customers held a day before now turning into ‘love’:

How O2 avoided an online PR crisis

With followers even trying to help them trend for the right reasons, not the hostile signal failing ones:

How O2 avoided an online PR crisis

You might be wondering how on earth did this work in their favour? And here is my theory, the customers sending in angry messages were expecting to hear back the usual pitch about contacting customer services, which in most peoples experience doesn’t get you anywhere. When O2 replied with the random humorous (but argumentative) messages, it threw people off course; they didn’t know how to respond. We all know what it’s like when you are trying to be angry with someone but they keep making you laugh…you’re not angry for long, are you?

So, there you have it – how to dodge a potentially fatal company crisis with humour. Brilliant.