Sorry Seems to Be the Easiest Word

Published: Dec 05 , 2013
Author: Alan Smith

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has promised to compensate those left "out of pocket" after customers were unable to pay for purchases.

RBS, NatWest and Ulster Bank customers making online and card payments were affected between 18:30 and 21:30 GMT this Monday. Bearing in mind that Monday was supposed to be the biggest on-line shopping day of the year (credit cards screaming with pre-Christmas purchases), this was indeed a big cock up. There were stories of students stranded in taxis they could not pay for, drinkers and diners with unpaid bills and mothers unable to buy nappies filling the morning news.

RBS has since reported that all systems are now back to normal. Mind you, that is what they said in March the last time it happened.

That said I think that the spokeswomen for RBS handled herself extremely well on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme when put under pressure by an enthusiastic reporter.

"We are deeply sorry for the inconvenience," said Susan Allen, RBS director of customer relations. She added that one person being inconvenienced was a disaster for a bank that prides itself on high customer service.

A group spokesman added: "If anyone has been left out of pocket as a result of these systems problems, we will put it right."

In many ways RBS handled the potential grievances to come with aplomb.

They had clearly listened hard to the complaints and understood the problems that the failure had caused individual customers. They were incredibly sympathetic to the difficulties they had created and promised to put right any reasonable requests for compensation. Susan Allen refused to be drawn into a big argument about the whys and wherefores and she refused to discuss the blame game, simply saying that they would resolve the problem and do their absolute best to ensure that it never happens again. 

Hard to get cross with someone who handles the complaint so well.

On so many occasions, this is not the case. A friend of mine has a restraining order preventing him from being within 100 yards of a certain electrical retailer following a massive argument over a computer that didn’t work.

They argued; he lost his temper. The Police got involved; no one won.

For RBS, the issue will be how they react to the out-of-pocket discussions they will now have with their inconvenienced customers.  It may be that saying sorry will not be enough; they may need to negotiate their way through a financial minefield!

Alan Smith


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Alan Smith

About the author:

Alan Smith
My background is marketing and advertising. After graduating in Economics I entered the agency world to become, at 28, MD of London's largest independent below-the-line marketing provider.

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