#chasefail

By Felix Salmon
September 16, 2010
fiasco is continuing into this morning, at least according to Twitter chatter. The bank's website went down on Monday night, was completely offline until Wednesday, and has been unreliable since then. And the response from the bank has been laughable:

" data-share-img="" data-share="twitter,facebook,linkedin,reddit,google" data-share-count="true">

The Chase online-banking fiasco is continuing into this morning, at least according to Twitter chatter. The bank’s website went down on Monday night, was completely offline until Wednesday, and has been unreliable since then. And the response from the bank has been laughable:

Bank spokesman Joseph Evangelisti said that it did not want to post updates until it had a full understanding of the problem.

Have these people learned nothing from corporate cock-ups from Eurostar to BP? You get out in front of the issue, you apologize and make good to your customers even before you know what went wrong, and, crucially, you communicate frequently on Twitter, which is the first place that people look, these days, for updates relating to rapidly-evolving situations.

Except — get this — Chase isn’t on Twitter. There’s an @chase account, but it belongs to a guy who describes himself as “just some punk kid with a camera”. Similarly, @jpmorgan belongs to Josh Morgan.There’s an @jpmorganchase account, but it’s empty. And at one point there was an @chasebank account, but that has now been suspended, for reasons which are unclear.

The results are predictable enough:

“From this customer’s point of view, management doesn’t seem to care one bit,” said Mike Underhill, a J.P. Morgan Chase customer in West Chester, Ohio…

J.P. Morgan said it expects to issue an apology to consumers, but it had said little on Tuesday about why more than 16 million online customers lost electronic access to their accounts…

“There is a brand and reputational risk here,” said Jacob Jegher, an online banking analyst for financial-services consultancy Celent, citing a flurry of Twitter posts on Wednesday critical of the bank. ‘There is a backlash going on in social circles that is out of control.”

One of the biggest issues that customers have with their banks is that of communication: banks are incredibly bad at telling their customers what’s going on.

What’s more, this whole episode underlines the way in which it’s silly to assume that bigger banks have more robust websites. In fact, the opposite is true, especially in the case of banks like Chase which are the result of many mergers and therefore have to cobble together all manner of disparate legacy systems.

And it also says a lot about redundancy within big corporations, or the lack thereof. The damage from this outage is many orders of magnitude less severe than the damage from the BP oil spill, but both of them are cases where any attempt at back-up plans or redundancy failed. Chase tried to update its website, but didn’t have a backup system in case the update failed; BP tried to put in a blowout preventer, but it didn’t work.

Evangelisti told the NYT’s Eric Dash that the outage “would not have a material effect on the bank’s earnings”, and I daresay he’s right about that. But investors should still care. Chase is one of the biggest consumer banks in the world, and it has proved, this week, that it’s incapable of communicating with those consumers. Insofar as it still has customers inherited from more outgoing banks like WaMu, this episode is likely to accelerate the rate at which they leave for somewhere smaller, simpler, and more reliable. If and when such banks finally arrive.

More From Felix Salmon
Post Felix
The Piketty pessimist
The most expensive lottery ticket in the world
The problems of HFT, Joe Stiglitz edition
Private equity math, Nuveen edition
Five explanations for Greece’s bond yield
Comments
25 comments so far

Felix,

I was with you up until you made communication via twitter the crucial point. I can’t think of a single person who follows the twitter feed of a major bank, or who would go to twitter to find an official statement from a corporation that has screwed up. Everyone I know of would, depending on their tech savvy, call a branch, go to the corporate website, or go to google.

That said, I completely understand why your circle – finance types and journalists – would be following twitter statements from major banks.

Posted by AnonymousChef | Report as abusive

I agree that large companies are not very good at informing their customers but i sincerely doubt having a twitter account will make a difference. I wouldnt trust any updates from twitter to begin with.

I have a chase account but for the most part ive not had any issues. But i do think having more back up systems in case of these issues is an important investment for the company. We live in an age where we are connected at all times, and we expect to be able to get our account info on the spot online. There is, however, the option of using their automated phone system for such info but lets be honest, not one likes to use that service.

Posted by Remnest | Report as abusive

Chase has the worst branch customer service from any bank I had used. You wait 5 min in line with not a single customer in front of you, while they “train” their new tellers. They constantly change the terms on their products to try to sqeeze out fees from you. If there was ANY other bank on my way to work I would switch in a hartbeat.

Posted by 74LS08 | Report as abusive

Why on earth would ANYONE give there money to a bank like Chase. They are stealing from you and you to dumb to know it. I got out of using banks over twenty years ago and have never looked back. Withdraw what is left of your money(if any) and put it in a credit union before there is none left at all.

Posted by workenstiffer | Report as abusive

WAMU TRUTH….

Look it up.

Posted by HROLLER | Report as abusive

In my opinion it’s good they don’t spend much on PR. That said,I wish they spent more on web site reliability and performance. By looks, structure, and some other things indicative to me as IT professional, the site was developed in India by some outsourcing company – or at least some parts of it. Well, if you pay peanuts, you end up with monkeys working for you.

Posted by anonym0us | Report as abusive

Oh YEH! I went into Chase bank to cash a check that was drawn from there bank. THEY WOULD NOT CASH IT! I had plenty of ID but they said I had to deposit it in my account or open an account with them. THEY DON’T EVEN HONOR THERE OWN CHECKS! It was last Cristmas and I need the cash to shop. SCREW YOU CHASE BANK!

Posted by workenstiffer | Report as abusive

I agree with anonymouschef – only a twit would follow a bank (for that matter, anyone) on Twitter. Workenstiffer – get your emergency foods stuffs, ammo, guns, and the cash between your mattresses and head for the hills!

Posted by sb0623 | Report as abusive

I hear your point but being a former Chase employee on the IT side, there are a lot of good people that are trying their best to figure out the problem. For you to make gastly assumptions with no facts behind it like when you say “to assume that bigger banks have more robust websites. In fact, the opposite is true, especially in the case of banks like Chase which are the result of many mergers and therefore have to cobble together all manner of disparate legacy systems” shows you have no knowlege of what has taken place on the backend to make things run as smoothly as they have.

Sure there are mistakes that are made – some systematic and some are just human error when someone makes an error in one line of code or some change in mapping databases or when they index a database. I don’t know what has caused the problem but what I do know is that there are a lot of good people that are working hard to identify the problem and fix it. As far as the communication piece, I agree that Chase should have said something but I do not know why they did not – perhaps there are some legal reasons or some other reason. You clearly just want to bash Chase which is fine but when you do so you should not make general assumptions on how the systems work or don’t work when you have no inside knowledge which is indicative of the comments you have made.

Posted by cruz78 | Report as abusive

Chase banks are the suckiest sucks that ever sucked a suck. Get an account at a small local bank… and stop GIVING your money to the bankers. WAKE UP AMERICA

Posted by SEAN.E.D | Report as abusive

I hear you, Cruz78. However, saying that a lot of good people are working hard at the problem doesn’t excuse either the lack of reliability or the lack of communications by Chase. These are not luxury services; Chase should consider them mission-critical and treat them as such. You are well aware that on a mission-critical system, you don’t change *anything* without a detailed plan of what to do if that change doesn’t take. I can go through the litany with you on backups, roll-backs, hot sites, and the like, but the fact of the matter is that Chase has not planned adequately (or not planned at all), or has failed at executing those plans.

Then there’s the communications part. You can bet that there are many people with automatic deposits and automatic payments that have no clue where they stand, and I would guess that branches and phone services are being overwhelmed. Felix is right about this part; they should be able to say whether or not transactions are occurring, and providing ETAs on service restoration.

Posted by Curmudgeon | Report as abusive

A bank’s relationship with you is a predator-prey relationship. Cultivating customer service excellence would seem to have strategic merit – after all, the better you make your prey feel about you, the more of their gut you can eat before they die – but from a cultural perspective it is orthogonal to virtually all large banks.

Expecting banks to “learn” from situations like this and expecting them to upgrade their customer service substantially is foolishness.

Vote with your bucks, folks, and join a local credit union.

Posted by JackMack | Report as abusive

I’m no fan of Chase, esp. since they lowered my credit lines drastically even though my payment and credit history are perfect. But as for their latest customer service blundering, …

Chase says they will refund any late fees incurred by their customers due to online payments not being available. How will this work for those other credit card companies who will not only charge late fees, but jack up your interest rate for being late? Is Chase going to strong-arm their competitors to prevent this from happening? Doubt it.

Posted by loveslittledogs | Report as abusive

@workenstiffer.. what’s wrong with depositing your check at your own bank? You expect Chase to be a free check cashing service for you?

@cruz78… I agree with regard to communicating with customers but I have also come to notice Mr. Salmon takes every opportunity to bash banks.

Just as a general note I heard on the news this morning that Chase is going to waive any fees that customers were charged to their accounts due to the issues with their website.

Posted by iflydaplanes | Report as abusive

I’m in my 40s and I don’t use Twitter and I’m not aware of any co-workers or friends who do – although there probably are a few. But I doubt ANY of them want tweets from their bank.

Sure, Chase should communicate better, but the assertion that they are remiss for not having a Twitter account is absurd.

Posted by randersontt | Report as abusive

If, as Felix says, Chase is getting beat up on social media, it’s a potential problem, and something they can only correct by communicating using that same media. That’s likely some combination of Twitter, Facebook, blogs, LinkedIn groups, and other web-based medium. The problem may go away when service is restored, or it may go completely viral and give Chase a black eye far beyond that medium.

Chase PR should be monitoring any online mention of the company during times like this, and have a plan for blunting its impact (the truth sometimes works). They may in fact be doing this, but don’t have authorization to respond in any way.

Posted by Curmudgeon | Report as abusive

With me a business gets two chances and Chase had their two chances on a card account. They muffed both chances and did not admit when they had problems with someone charging to my account. Now all my correspondence with chase goes in the round file.

Posted by fred5407 | Report as abusive

@Twitter is a mess. Who has the #patience?

Posted by nedofbaker | Report as abusive

Anonymous Chef

No need to add to your grey hair.

Commentators don’t have to do everything right.

They only tell you who did wrong.

TGIF and a nice weekend, everyone.

Posted by doctorjay317 | Report as abusive

Felix Salmon he has more in common with teenage girls than most people reading the financial news. Twitter? To get information about the goings on of my bank? Felix probably thinks the customers at the Hello Kitty store where he buys his eyeglass frames are a representative sample of Reuters readers. I’ll wager they aren’t.

As far as the bank… Yes, this is terrible and it’s an example of how irritating these people are. They take bailouts, they get 0% loans from the Fed and can sell their toxic junk to the Fed for six times what the market will pay and they can’t even run a website. When you own the executive branch of government, you don’t need to worry about what people think. There are no consequences, no prosecutions, no punishment. Chase can do whatever it pleases because it owns government and together Chase and government own us.

Posted by RodolfoP | Report as abusive

Very rapidly, the banking guys are joining the ISP, telco, software, search engine and government guys down there in the deep,deep silos….where nothing can be heard and life is beautiful all the time.
Where it doesn’t matter if you put on the website “WE WANNA HEAR FROM YOU!” without providing any method whereby that great event can occur.
Where you feel safe because – although there used to be call centres-full of disabled folks to hide behind – there’s now The Chatroom instead: that surreal prison camp borrowed from Kafka where lots of limbo-souls wander about saying “Say – I see you got that problem too – how about that?”
In the old physical world, bankers were always difficult to pin down. In the virtual one, they’re invisible.
Be very afraid of invisible bankers: don’t mess with them. Or stealth bombers.
http://nbyslog.blogspot.com/2010/09/sket ch-fear-and-loathing-in-eus-tower.html

Posted by nbywardslog | Report as abusive

Felix is just trying to cajole the banks into feeding him information for articles via twitter. You see, the investigative reporters of the past are now just twits and bloggers that really don’t want to leave the comfort of their cube. So wouldn’t it be nice if all the banks would tweet for them? Then he wouldn’t need to look for press releases to rehash.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive

I would surmise there is an army of technicians working overtime fixing the glitch. Wasting time on those hobby websites would undermine the credibility of the bank. Those in the sub-30 age range may have a need to describe their latest corn filled BM. Felix, you are a boob.

Posted by garyphillips | Report as abusive

Twitter response?!? Surely you are joking, or maybe the bubble of bloggers you are living in is running out of oxygen. Anyway, what they need to do is to frequently update the website with this information, and redirect it to an updated information page, rather than expose anyone to error pages or timeouts that would be associated with web application issues. That appears to be what’s going on now, so you are attempting make something out of nothing.

Sad, because your piece on Trillium was really good, but then you do this faux consumer advocacy whining and look like a fool.

Posted by mattmc | Report as abusive
Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/