Did you know that the computers
at my local bank, and the entire Federal Reserve, were “crashed” by
a virus a few weeks ago? Neither did I, until I was told just that
by the teller at my local bank. Of course, the teller was wrong, but
imagine the response a less tech-savvy patron might have upon hearing
such news. It probably wouldn’t cause a “run” on
the bank, but in this era of fear, uncertainty and doubt, such broad
pronouncements about technology can cause big problems for your company
This whole scenario started when I went to my local branch to receive
a check for a Certificate of Deposit that was maturing. After dealing
with a teller to close the account, I found that they couldn’t
print my check. The teller then said that an Internet virus had knocked
out the Federal Reserve computers. I knew about the worm that was causing
some problems with communications, but her dire description was truly
overblown. I understand that not everyone is as knowledgeable about
high-tech as you and I, but neither the loan officer nor the manager
I talked with did anything to dispel the teller’s original diagnosis.
Placing the blame
I can only place so much of the blame on these worker’s, though.
They obviously had not been instructed in what to tell the customers
and responded to the best of their technical knowledge. Unfortunately,
it seems they got most of their information from the overblown, and
often, incorrect, reports from the mainstream media when it should
have come from their in-house IT department.
When front line workers respond in this fashion, the simple truth is,
it is because their technology staff has failed them. The tech workers,
often in a rush to solve the problem itself, have not explained the
situation clearly enough. Left to their own devices, and eager to offer
some explanation for the problems, front line workers will fall back
on whatever they may have heard, regardless of the source. As I left
the bank, I began to think about what damage this situation did to
the bank’s reputation and how this scenario might have been avoided.
It should now be clear that you, as high-tech workers, must have
a plan for situations such as this. Otherwise, what might be a
simple outage will be blown out of proportion by the time your customers
hear of it. Here are a few guidelines to prevent a bad situation
from getting completely out of hand.
First, develop a clear and concise explanation of the problem that
is currently occurring. You need to ensure that this explanation can
be understood by both your front line staff and your customers.
Second, communicate this explanation to everyone in your organization,
not just those directly involved with serving your customers. I do
mean everyone, from the receptionist to the CEO. This allows the company
to present a coherent message on the problem no matter who a customer
may contact. When everyone has a good explanation of the problem, they
don’t have to make anything up.
Third, provide an estimated time for the restoration of services, or
at the very least, when you will provide the next update on the status
of the problem. Don’t leave your people without some sort of
indication as to the next step in the process. Let them know that you
will be in touch again, at some later time, with an update, if not
Finally, let everyone know when the situation has been corrected and
systems are functioning normally again. Also include information on
the cause of the problem and what steps are being taken to ensure it
doesn’t happen again. Again, these explanations should be clear
enough for anyone to understand, whether they are your co-workers or
Your reputation, and that of your company depend greatly on the perceptions
of your customers. Technology problems are bound to occur. Dealing
with these problems correctly will quickly differentiate your company
from your competitors. Don’t allow a bad situation to be made
worse due to poor communication. Give your fellow staff members the
information they need to serve their customers, whether the problem
is large or small. Your entire company will benefit, as will your high-tech
Comments, Questions, Reviews?