Page Impressions Ltd Blogcetera: Why Stephen Hester should visit O2

Monday, July 30, 2012

Why Stephen Hester should visit O2


Recently two of the UK’s largest companies, the bank RBS and the telecoms company O2, suffered serious technical problems that had a critical impact on millions of their customers.  In June, during a ‘routine’ software upgrade RBS managed to corrupt their entire High Street banking operation of RBS and NatWest which left millions of customers unable to access and operate their accounts.  Mortgages went unpaid, deposits were not credited and customers were unable to access their via ATM machines.  The outage caused huge disruption and lasted more than a week and effected both retail and business customers.

In a similar computer upset, O2 had a network failure of their 2G network. The outage lasted two days before it was resolved.
What is interesting is the difference in the response to customers that each company adopted.  RBS took several days to make the problem public and communicate their concerns via the media.  The severity of the problems was never fully exposed and when RBS Boss, Stephen Hester, was interviewed, he seemed unable to explain what had gone wrong nor whether they would compensate customers.  They only made a vague promise that no one would be out of pocket.  As a business customer of RBS I have not received any apology from either the staff in my local branch or from my ‘Account Manager’.  Not even a phone call to check I was having any problems even though payments for thousands of pounds into and out of my business account had ‘failed’.  I was left to apologise to suppliers to avoid having my credit rating damaged.

Contrast this with O2, with whom I am also a customer.  Despite the fact that  as a 3G network user I didn’t appear to have any problems, O2 immediately contacted me and apologised for the outage and as soon as the problem was resolved provided me an email detailing compensation in the form of a 10% reduction in my monthly contract and a voucher to use in their O2 shops.  This was a genuine no quibble guarantee.

What a difference it makes when a company is genuinely customer focused.  I have always found that O2 has a world class customer service operation and their reaction to their recent problems was case study in how to deal with a major business problem.  RBS on the other hand only seems to be focused on their bonuses and not the customer.  It is now a month on from their problems and they have still not contacted me other than sending out their usual bank charges without any reduction for the outage period.  Bankers still do not seem to get it.  Customers are the people they should be concerned about losing, not their highly paid investment bankers.  Stephen Hester should be beating a path to O2’s customer service department and find out how to build a customer focused business operation rather than continuing to defend their bonus policy.

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