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Part 2: Chase Apologizes for Outage in Customer Email but is Light on Details

By Jim Bruene on September 20, 2010 6:35 PM | Comments (2)

image Over the weekend, Chase Bank sent a short email apology to its online customers. Overall, the message was fine and now the bank can check that off its to-do list.

I'm glad the bank didn't waste a hundred million dollars giving everyone a $5 credit. A simple apology is the best approach, preferably during the actual outage. This message, six days after the initial downtime, is a bit sub-par for a company with the resources of Chase (for a review of its initial communications, see our previous post and today's review at The Financial Brand).

Analysis of the Chase email (screenshot below): Overall, the email message was adequate. The title was good, "Please accept our apologies." And that was all most people needed to hear. But I'm a little surprised by the lack of detail provided within the message. Especially, considering the much better note posted to Chase.com over the weekend, then apparently taken down (see note 1 below).

In Sunday's email, Chase reassured customers that "(your) account information was not compromised." That's great, but the bank could have scored extra points by saying exactly what went wrong, how they fixed it, and what they are doing to prevent a recurrence (this info could be delivered via a link to more detail on the website.) 

The bank should also have made the apology unconditional. Chase's exact words (italics mine), "we apologize if this created difficulties" and "please accept our apology for any inconvenience this may have caused." Forget the conditions. Assume it inconvenienced everyone and just straight-up say you are sorry.

Another no-small thing. A note of apology should be from an actual person (like the bank's website message, note 1). The lack of a signer imparts a nagging impression that no one at the bank has stepped up to own the problem. An email address or phone number for additional info would also make it seem more sincere.

Finally, according to the info posted on the site over the weekend, the bank is covering late fees caused by the outage (see note 1). Perhaps that email went only to bill-pay customers (which I am not). But still, why not mention it?  

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PS  One last question and then we'll move on, promise. Why was the online apology taken down after just a few days? Many customers affected by the outage will never see the all-important public apology on the bank's homepage (see screenshot at The Financial Brand).

Chase Bank apology email (19 Sep 2010, 2PM Pacific)

  Chase Bank apology email (19 Sep 2010)

Note:
1. According to the New York CBS affiliate, the following appeared on the Chase website on Friday, 17 Sep (link):

We are sorry for the difficulties that recently affected chase.com and we apologize for not communicating better with you about this issue. As you may know, we experienced a significant service interruption and Online Bill Payments that were scheduled to be sent on September 13, 14, or 15, 2010, were sent by the morning of September 16, 2010.

If you scheduled a payment to be sent during those dates, but do not see it reflected in your payment activity by September 16, 2010, please contact us.

We are working hard to make sure that any late fees you may have incurred as a result of this processing delay are being refunded:

  • If your payment was to another Chase account (for example, Chase Credit Card Services), we are automatically refunding any late fees.
  • If your payment was to anyone other than Chase (for example, your telephone service, utilities or another financial institution), we are contacting many payees to prevent late fees from being charged.
  • However, if your payee charged you a late fee, please call us at one of the numbers below or visit your nearest Chase branch. We will refund the late fee to you.

We recommend that you keep this letter in case you need to provide information to your payee.

Please be assured that Chase's online security has not been compromised as a result of this service interruption. Your accounts and confidential information remain safe and secure.

Giving you 24-hour access to your banking is of the utmost importance to us. This was not the level of service we know you expect, and we will work hard to serve and communicate with you better in the future.

Again, please accept our apology for this disruption and thank you for your patience. If you have any questions, please stop by your nearest Chase branch or call:

  • 1-800-935-9935 for Personal accounts
  • 1-877-CHASEPC (1-877-242-7372) for Business accounts
  • 1-800-848-9136 for Home Lending and Auto accounts
  • For credit card accounts, please call the number on the back of your card

Sincerely,

Patricia O. Baker
Senior Vice President
Chase Executive Office

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It looks like the email went out to everyone, even people that just had a card with them. I totally agree...just come out and say what happened, don't blame it on a third party (Chase is big enough to manage third party relationships well), and don't offer a conditional apology. If you read the message in the email or on the site (basically if you clicked through at all), you were obviously inconvenienced, and were trying to log in. I think we expected more from a top 4 FI, but it teaches us all a lesson in PR crisis fintech management. Great follow up post Jim.

I received this email from Chase, and had no clue what they were apologizing for. I've had no problems with Chase, but when I read that email, I had the same impression: "the message was fine and now the bank can check that off its to-do list." Learning that the apology came 6 days after the outage solidifies my first impression.

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