Over the past few days, customers of HDFC Bank are unable to access its net banking facility. Many of them stormed social media, like Twitter, with complaints that its online banking site and the app were not operational or working properly.
HDFC Bank says it has rectified the technical glitch in online banking facility, many customers say this is not the truth and they continue to face issues with net banking and mobile app. According to Reserve Bank of India (RBI), due to the technical glitch, HDFC Bank servers kept sending ping to RBI servers, resulting in overloading. Due to this, RBI cut access of HDFC Bank servers to RBI servers, says a top official from RBI.
Responding to customers on Twitter, HDFC Bank says, "...we would like to state that the technical glitch has been rectified. Our NetBanking and MobileBanking App platforms have now stabilized. Once again, we would like to sincerely apologize for all the inconvenience caused."
However, according to Farhan Shaikh, a techie who works with leading IT company, this technical glitch at HDFC Bank takes place during the same time of the year.
Here is what Mr Shailkh wrote in LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/hdfc-bank-great-fail-redux-farhan-shaikh/)...
Last year, around the same time, HDFC Bank had taken an important decision. That of updating their mobile app. And they failed miserably at it. So much, that they had to take their app down from the App Store. I covered the entire saga here.
That was December 2018.
Coming back to December 2019 - and the Annul Failure Fest has gone straight from bad to worst.
This time, almost all the HDFC Bank customers have their accounts (literally) frozen - as they are unable to transact - neither through the mobile app, nor through their website (netbanking). Given the recent turmoil in the banking industry, there were strong rumours of HDFC Bank going bust. A lot of HDFC customers started using UPI (especially Google Pay and Paytm) to complete their transactions.
Some tried to link their Google Pay with HDFC Bank Account but were unsuccessful in doing so.
Worst reaction? People actually started UPI Apps to start moving money to other bank accounts.
This has to be the worst technical failure at this scale, given the fact that customers continued to complain as they were unable to transact or use the account till Tuesday afternoon (03/12/2019 - 04 PM). More than 24 hours have passed since people started complaining, and things have not changed. While according to some users, this is the third day of the issue.
But that's not the end of the tragedy.
Marketing It Wrong?
The marketing and social media teams of the brand have failed them in such crucial hours of crisis. Even when customers are unable to access (forget using) the HDFC Bank's mobile app, the Bank continued to send ads via push notifications. Just before publishing, I even received an SMS ad for personal loans. One of the worst manifestations of digital marketing at play.
Social Media - Business as Usual?
The social media team did not stop the pre-scheduled social media tweets which annoyed a lot of customers - given the timing where customers are extremely annoyed.
Even on Facebook, HDFC Bank kept posting about their different initiatives (API Banking Summit) and launches (co-branded Credit Card with Walmart). All the posts were filled with complaints regarding the website and mobile app issues. As one user rightly pointed out, such an outage has happened for the third time - which might mean quite a business loss for small and medium scale businessmen.
Online Reputation Mis-management
As you can see from the above screenshot, HDFC Bank continued to send across standard responses as customers were angry with the way the issue was being managed. On top of it, the ORM response also advised users to not have "undue concern". If nothing else, it reminds me of "no smoke without fire" proverb; even for those who did not want to read between the lines.
End is not near…
Just before hitting the publish button, I hit the page refresh on Twitter tab; only to see the #HDFCBankDown now trending at fourth rank in India Twitter Trends. This means more people are now tweeting about the issue, and most importantly continue to face it. Complete digital failure is pinching the customers hard, and many are contemplating the reason for the same - lack of focus on customer service or bank shutting down, just like the website.
ABC of HDFC Saga
Clearly, this was not a planned downtime, so there's nothing brand could have communicated in advance. However, post the initial issues, the brand could have easily stopped other not-so critical social media posts, or any sort of marketing notifications to further rub customers the wrong way. Most importantly, HDFC Bank should have skipped firefighting the "undue concerns" and instead spoke about the technological breakdown. In the digital age, customers expect brands to be honest and transparent about the issues. This looks like a complete loss of trust for the brand.
When fintechs in the country are setting new benchmarks in customer experience, large enterprise banks are expected to atleast have the basic customer journeys in place. Investing is one area where startups have completely taken over the realms from traditional fund houses when it comes to onboarding new investors. While payments bank have not taken off as they were expected to, the traditional banks are on brink of disruption. With such outages, banks will make it easier for customers to rethink their long-term loyalties and deposits.
Personally, I have been an HDFC customer since 2011. Even before this issue erupted, me, along with a lot many iPhone users were having mobile app-related issues. It was just last week I tweeted about iOS Touch ID not working on the app; so I have been using it only via PIN input.
Are you an existing HDFC Customer? How are you dealing with this issue? What do you think are the possible reasons behind this outage?