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Jonathan Hemus, managing director of Insignia, explains why one key lesson from the TSB’s crisis management response is that effective crisis communications is not enough: actions speak louder than words…

The past few weeks has been very tough for TSB boss, Paul Pester. Almost two months after the bank’s ill-fated IT upgrade on 20th April, with UK Parliamentary committees and the FCA circling, and most importantly swathes of customers who now don’t trust the brand with their money, he is still very much in the midst of a crisis.

In response to the bank’s IT meltdown, which left almost 2 million customers without access to their online banking and some losing money as a result, Paul Pester was quick to communicate (as every crisis management textbook would recommend).

However, while it seemed he’d taken all the right steps to protect reputation, appearing empathetic, promising action and even compensation, TSB’s reputation (and his own) have taken a severe battering.

There are two reasons for this. Firstly, to overcome a crisis you must not only communicate well, but you must also fix the problem. You can communicate brilliantly but if you don’t solve the underlying problem then you will still lose the trust of your customers, as TSB has found to its cost.

Secondly, it transpired recently that he’d been too optimistic about TSB’s ability to fix their IT problems and the speed with which this could be achieved. In a crisis, it’s important to avoid saying anything that you can’t guarantee will happen: or risk your credibility being shot to pieces.

In a crisis, swift and extensive communication is essential. But it is not enough to protect an organization if actions and stakeholder experience do not match the fine words.

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