Unless you have been living in a cave, you will be aware of the significant issues experienced by Nat West Bank recently. Significant is definitely the word. Thousands of customers were unable to access their funds, causing untold number of problems.

I heard stories on the radio of customers’ house deals falling through because they could not transfer the funds to complete the purchase. Customers were unable to pay for their hotels on departure. Monthly pay checks were not paid in – the tales of woe go on and on.

It is a fact of life that no organisation will get it right 100% of the time – however much boards of directors would like that to be the case. As a Six Sigma professional, I am all too aware of the continuing pursuit for perfection – the enigma that is ‘6 sigma’ means that for a process to be 99.9997% perfect, it would only fail 3.4 times out of every million opportunities. Nat West is a little way away from this statistic at the moment – that is for sure!!

Knowing that your business processes are unlikely to be perfect, it is imperative that every organisation is very good at dealing with the instances when something does not go to plan. This is often dealt with by the thousands of contact centres up and down the country and in far off lands around the world. However, how much attention is really paid by every function in the organisation to the importance of recovering failure? Recovering bad situations should not just be the responsibility of the customer service team. They may well be the experienced professionals who are able to effectively interact with the consumer, but recovery strategies should be a collective effort, involving marketing, operational, customer service and support functions.

When was the last time you questioned how effective your recovery strategies are? What would you have done if you had an ‘Armageddon scenario’ that was faced by Nat West? Yesterday, I received an email from Nat West, it said the following:


I have to say – I was impressed with this. It may seem like a lot of ‘marketing spin’, but I feel that it is an honest, open, humble response, to a situation that they were responsible for. The key now is that they are able to quickly and efficiently deal with all customers who were seriously affected by the problems. But the fact that they have been so honest about the issues, and are pro-actively keeping customers informed of their actions, is impressive.

When I was Group head of CX at Shop Direct Group, we had to deal with extreme weather conditions during the peak Christmas period in 2010. Whilst many retailers literally struggled in the snow, Shop Direct had extremely robust recovery plans in place. Containers were put in the supermarkets of care parks so that customers could still get their presents. Every customer was pro-actively kept up to date with the delivery progress of their parcel. A homeworking solution was put in place (with Arise Virtual Solutions), ensuring that calls would be answered, even if contact centre agents could not get in to work. That Christmas, whilst many retailers unfortunately failed their customers, Shop Direct saw a significant increase in customer satisfaction.

I implore you to ask the following questions this week – what would your company have done? What will your company do when something goes seriously wrong? It will happen – no organisation is infallible. Prevention of serious failures is very important, but do not forget to have a robust recovery plan in place for the rare occasions that it something does go badly wrong.

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