Last week, some 7.5 million people in the UK faced the alarming reality that they had lack of access to their earnings. The breaking news story was that NatWest had (and is still having) technical “glitches” and consequentially cannot transfer money or pay wages. As a result of this glitch, people cannot pay bills, get home from work, get milk for their babies, get the keys to their new house with removers van outside waiting, or, as one customer claimed, “check out of a hotel in Venice, missing a flight home”.

I’m sure we can agree that this is every company’s worst nightmare, but when catastrophic situations arise, how do you control the way you deal with the problem? 10 years ago, the frustration associated with this situation would have been two-fold, due to clogged phone lines and lack of communication. With social media, however, companies like NatWest can now ride the waves instead of drown.

The NatWest situation jumped across to the main news and proceeded to really heat up on Twitter. @NatWest_Help sent out a tweet at 9 a.m. reading:


Two hours later they tweeted:


Meanwhile NatWest customers became increasingly anxious and flabbergasted. They used Twitter to address the concerns they faced: What about the penalty cost of the transactions not going through, will customers be reimbursed by this fault? Does the technical glitch meant that data has been compromised? If this is not a technical glitch, could it be a more sincere problem?

With the use of social media tools like Twitter, NatWest did a good job of playing damage control to keep the fire under control. Posting an upwards of 20 tweets, they offered live updates, addressed concerns, and provided re-assurance about the situation. However, based on the tweets of angry customers, they could have done a better job advising people about what to do and responding to individual customer complaints.


From a business perspective, we can learn a few helpful lessons from the NatWest situation:

Establish protocols for crisis situations: Crises happen. To ensure your business is prepared, make sure to establish clear social media guidelines in case of a crisis. All employees should understand the expectations and protocols.

Address customer questions and concerns: NatWest did an exceptional job of being apologetic, but they could’ve done better at addressing the actual questions and concerns of their customers.

Be the trusted resource for clients: If a crisis situation arises, don’t shy away beneath the sheets. Own it, and do everything you can to help and empower your customers.This means producing good, informative content that will serve as the best resource for clients. By owning your mistakes and taking actionable steps to help your clients, you establish more trust than if you were to ignore or avoid the situation. Ask yourself: do you want your clients to turn to you or third parties for information? Be the trusted resource!

Your customers are on social media: After realizing the lack of access to their funds, customers headed straight to Twitter. If a situation like this were to ever occur at your business, your customers would do the same. Make sure you have established a solid presence on social media.

Please Note: this article is for informational purposes only. We strongly encourage you to verify any content and information you use with your own compliance department or legal counsel.

Written by Amy McIlwain
Author, speaker, and President at Financial Social Media, Amy McIlwain speaks on social media at events around the world ranging from audiences of 1000 to small executive boardrooms. She's appeared on FOX, CBS, ABC, and NBC as a social media expert and her book, The Social Advisor: Social Media Secrets of the Financial Industry, has been featured as a best-seller in the Amazon business category. Follow @amymcilwain on Twitter and visit to book her for your next event!