There’s little that should surprise us in this day and age, but the good old social media stratosphere has proved its mettle when it counts. As has – this author is proud to say – the genial spirit of the North-East.
NatWest (the bank – it pays to elucidate) has had a torrid week. A technical glitch in a routine software upgrade last Tuesday evening led to a backlog of millions of transactions.
Millions of customer bank accounts have been affected by the problem, which shows no immediate sign of abating.
The RBS group has fervently assured customers that nobody will be left out of pocket by the chaos. But risk assessment analysts have queried why no adequate contingency plans were in place to deal with such a problem.
The episode has heaped more pressure onto the shoulders of beleaguered RBS boss Stephen Hester, who has faced numerous calls for his resignation. The taxpayer-owned group had already taken a blow last week when RBS was downgraded by credit ratings agency Moody’s, along with four other major British banks and 15 worldwide.
The Red Mist, over Black and White Town
NatWest customers, personal and business alike, were understandably distressed by the banking failure.
Desperate individuals have had no access to salaries, benefit payments, or tax credits. Businesses have lost contracts because funds were not available at the crucial time of transaction. Brits currently overseas were left to panic as accessibility to funds was severed.
We’ve noted here many times before, particularly throughout our savings-related material, that consumers tend to be devoutly loyal to their banks. But this episode – not about the odd fraction of a percentage point on a savings account or ISA, but a breakdown in the fundamental banking operation – might be set to change all of that.
Only, as most of us are all too well aware, many angry Brits do not abide by the principle of looking before leaping. The rise in exposure of the degree of internet trolling also shows that, on average, we’re not always the politest folk online either.
Consequently, Natalie Westerman (@natwest), a English teacher from Newcastle, suddenly found her Twitter account bombarded by angry and abusive messages from irate customers who didn’t think to check (or contemplate the thought) that the 22 year old’s account might not actually be the target of their rant.
But the Novocastrian has received plaudits from Twitter users for her good humour and genial approach to the inattention of her happy-slapping complainants, directing 150 people to the bank’s official customer service account on Sunday alone.
As the story broke, messages of sympathy began to follow, as many came to understand the mishap. Some who had previously posted in error returned to apologise for their mistake. A bemused Ms Westerman said that her followers had increased fivefold following the episode.
Despite hoping to retain her username of three years, Twitter has reputedly demanded that she change it. It will know only too well that not everything ‘cottons on’ quickly.
This author, proud of his Mackem heritage, champions Miss Westerman’s sterling good humour and the credit she’s given to a region crippled by the recession but renowned for its friendliness nonetheless.
How about @NatNorthEast, Miss?