Perfection isn't something we really expect from companies. In fact, with the amount of interconnectedness we share with products and services we use, not to mention with one another, it's fairly astounding that things run as smoothly as they usually do. Still, things aren't perfect--sometimes human error is to blame, and sometimes it's just the standard old technical difficulty. 

That being said, when a crisis ensues, good customer service is all about resolving those snafus gracefully and efficiently. In other words, not how Wells Fargo has handled the past week, much less the past 24 hours. Here's a quick recap of what happened to catch you up.

On February 1st, the bank confirmed via tweet that there were "issues" with online banking and the mobile app. Wells Fargo apologized, of course:

The more recent problem on February 7th was also acknowledged, after two hours of nationwide issues were reported of inaccessible online and mobile banking (again). Here's how Wells Fargo responded:

 Hm. Look familiar? Sure does. Three hours later, Wells Fargo tweeted again.  

The icing on the cake came in after-hours at 9:18 p.m. ET.

Major Lessons Learned

Look, things happen that are out of our control--and most people are willing to concede to those outliers and be reasonable. The expectation, however, is that when a company makes a mistake, the company corrects it. The fact that this was the second occurrence in a week increased the sensitivities and repercussions exponentially for Wells Fargo, but it very poorly communicated with customers during a crisis--customers who could not access critical banking information with unanswered questions. 

Three things that Wells Fargo should have done differently:

  1. Wells Fargo should have provided customers with peace of mind -- on all channels (social, mobile, website, etc.) -- telling them that their money was safe and that if any Wells Fargo fees were incurred as a result, the bank would refund them. Wells Fargo didn't make the statement acknowleding the refund until 9:18 p.m. The bank missed an opportunity.
  2. Wells Fargo should have been more proactive. With sensitivities associated with banking, two hours is a very long time before acknowledging a nationwide outage. In not confirming sooner, the bank's call center reps and social channels were flooded with support inquiries--putting a strain on public perception and internal work volumes. Be proactive, not reactive.
  3. Wells Fargo should have been more human in its communication. I'm not suggesting the bank should have gone full-on Wendy's, but instead of copying and pasting the same message from earlier in the week, more empathy could have been provided. I can imagine the intense scrutiny and comms policies surroundingwhat can be publicly stated and how, but even a tweet on the hour that "We're still heads down in the issue. Turn on the 'notification' button and you'll get notified as soon as we tweet" would have helped. Wells Fargo could have done better here. 

When crisis strikes, be sure you have a plan, whether general or specific, on how you will respond to the public. Be human when you can, communicate frequently, and provide peace of mind where applicable, especially when sensitive information is included.