Expertise | customers | 7 min read

A Social Media Analysis of the TSB IT Disaster

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Is there a reprieve after the bank's catastrophic IT fail?

In the past month, 1.9 million TSB UK customers have been unable to access their accounts, make transactions and for a fortunate few, saw their balances increase by substantial amounts.

This was the result of a failure in TSB’s IT systems as it attempted to migrate its customers to a new banking platform.

After letting the dust settle from the initial storm, we conducted a social media analysis to understand  the evolution of public’s online reaction and identify trends within their conversations. This included comments on blogs, forums and of course social media.

After the day of the crash, April 22nd, much of the reaction was dominated by the press, which, as usual, played its part in stoking the flames of fury. Most of the online conversation were articles published on websites about the TSB banking system failure. In addition, journalists and writers appeared to be the most prolific cohort of commentators in the wake of the fiasco.

And they were sure to rub as much salt as possible into TSB’s slow-to-heal wound. The BBC and the Guardian were the most influential commentators, But the Sun provided the most viral comment with this post.

Customer Reaction

Unfortunately for TSB, there appeared to be no respite from the onslaught Nearly a month later and many customers have still been unable to access their accounts. To exasperate their frustration, many reported long waiting times as they turned to customer services and visits to branches, with many saying they were unable to reach a resolution.

Despite much of the commentary taking place on websites, customers inevitably took to Twitter to share their grievances. Much of this conversation came from outraged customers looking for clarity on the situation and letting TSB know how their lives had been affected by the disruption.

Some unfortunate customers claimed to have lost savings to fraud, others unable to make transactions to cover essential payments in time and many just wanting to know when the ordeal would end.

Despite their dismay, customers appear to be surprisingly patient with the bank. Only 106 of the 1140 posts from customers referred to closing, leaving or switching bank account accounts. However, for some that have left, pastures anew have not been greener.

So, What Next?

The questions management at TSB will be asking is how badly the bank’s reputation been damaged and how many customers it will lose. Although there have not been any mass protest or a #BoycottTSB, this user (@TSBFails) on Twitter has been aggregating the mass indignation. Given TSB’s attempt to reposition itself as a “challenger bank” it is somewhat ironic that IT has turned out to be its bane.

Incidentally this isn’t the first major IT debacle to have hit British banks and it is unlikely to be the last. In June 2012, millions of customers of RBS, NatWest and Ulster Bank, were locked out for days, and in the case of Ulster Bank, for weeks.  The bank was fined £50m by regulators, but the episode is understood to have cost the bank more than £100m. In December 2013, RBS customers suffered again after a glitch on year left millions of shoppers unable to pay for transactions using their credit or debit cards. Customers at Lloyds Bank and HSBC also suffered from outages in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

James Somers, writer at The Atlantic, wrote an excellent piece on how fragile the Digital world can be and the significant risks we face as society continues to be consumed by “digital transformation”. There is a lot of brouhaha surrounding the circumstances that led to the failure of the migration of customer accounts and launch of Proteo4Uk, the name of TSB’s new banking system. But it is likely that a small error in a piece of code or failure to correctly map data to a destination is responsible for all of the commotion.

All that is left now is for TSB to restore order to its banking systems, its PR and its communication and marketing teams to placate its reputation after such a drubbing in the media. With emotive marketing seeking to increase the bond between bank and consumer, TSB will be hoping that they haven’t broken too many hearts. It is not impossible for the bank to bounce back ultimately unscathed, except for a heavy fine from regulators.


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