Knock knock Northern Rock

September 14, 2007

I am Northern Rock customer – I’m not sure whether to be scared, bemused or angry right now. With all the media hype about bail outs and share prices plunging you’d think that somebody, somewhere would think about communicating with customers. northernrock1.jpg
Northern Rock’s website is no doubt under siege and their home page assures us that there are a few delays but no problems. Attempts to log into accounts are then met with this announcement which is effectively blocking access to my account and my money. Phones are ringing out and there seems to be nothing that resembles a customer service or communications strategy to deal with the rising level of anxiety about where our money is, whether it’s safe and how we go about getting access to it.
As Johnnie rightly points out

Good grief. Here’s a bank who’s shares have plummeted 30%, with customers lining up at branches this morning. Do they have no clue about damage limitation? Do they not get that by not really acknowledging what’s happening and talking to customers about it, they make the situation worse?
Now if they’d had a corporate blog, they might have had someone in there with the wit to write something in plain English that could have been reassuring. But no, it’s the stony silence of denial. That just adds to my sense of their incompetence.

and I’m in total agreement with him. With all of the banking scandals we’ve had in this country over the past 10 years you’d think that Northern Rock would see an opportunity here do do things differently – Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
Update 16 September
The following was posted on the Northern Rock website when I tried to log in today: and here’s a link to a Q and A posted on the site.
Dear Customer
May I begin by offering you my sincere apologies for any inconvenience you have suffered in dealing with Northern Rock during the last few days. Customer service is of paramount importance to us and due to the circumstances that surround us, you have been let down. Thank you so much for your patience, particularly when using our website which has been running very slowly due to the number of people working online.
Let me now reassure you. Your money is safe with us and if you want some, or all of it back, then you are perfectly entitled to it. Whilst you may have to wait a little longer than usual to receive it, you will get it. However, your savings are secure and there is no need for you to withdraw your money based on our recent announcement, and the widespread media coverage that has ensued. The Bank of England has agreed to provide a funding facility to enable us to manage through the current global liquidity crisis. They would not have done so, if we were not a solvent, adequately capitalised, well run bank. I hope this helps to reassure you.
Your custom is very important to us and I sincerely hope you choose to stay with us along with the vast majority of our customer base.
Yours sincerely
Adam J Applegarth
Chief Executive
16 September 2007

6 People reacted on this

  1. I did think it strange that they did so little damage limitation but then it occurred to me:
    Would yo have left your money in if they spoke all nice and promised it was safe?
    There was no limitation possible! The deposits were leaving anyway, all damage limitation would have done is made some noise and a bit of stress for the executive involved!

  2. I disagree Eoin – I think they should have come out and said what was happening with their web site – how long it would be down, what exactly is the status of our accounts etc etc…customer service isn’t about keeping the masses happy it’s about keeping them informed in an honest and timely way..

  3. Oh come on! All this happening & you expect that they have time to worry about “an opportunity here to do things differently”. I think they have better things to be doing (e.g. concerning themselves with the future of their organisation, damage limitation with corporate links, i.e. other banks that lend them money, etc) than worrying about communicating with customers when the Regulators both here and in the UK are telling people what the position is.
    I also imagine that when their phone/web systems were put in place, they did not anticipate the volumes of connections they’re currently experiencing.
    People are basically panicking – all that queuing to take out money when people have been assured by the BOE and the various regulators.
    Obviously, everyone in the world would agree that people should have access to their own funds and information, but seriously, do you expect that things just work as normal when all of this is going on??

  4. People are basically panicking – all that queuing to take out money when people have been assured by the BOE and the various regulators
    Yes, Clo I do and yes people are panicking – it’s triggering all kinds of fear about previous banking scandals in this country and abroad so I don’t blame people for panicking…but it appears that someone, somewhere in Northern Rock has finally got the message (as you can see from the edit to this post). It’s astonishing to me that a company in the financial industry(which, let’s face it is predicated on emotion to make money) should contribute to the panic and fear by being spectacularly absent…they didn’t take charge of the situation – all that would have been required was for someone to appoint another someone to update the web site on a regular basis – or *gasp* link to a page hosted on another server where regular updates on the situation could be accessed.
    If your business is built on confidence then surely you have to take some responsibility for how you either generate or damage that?

  5. My favourite element is (was) the advertisement featuring the deep sea diver on the front page of the website. You’d think someone in their marketing department would have seen fit to pull it.

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