According to its latest marketing campaign, Commonwealth Bank is “determined to be different”. All shot artistically in black and white, the TV ads feature mildly offbeat situations featuring the likes of a bulldog and a fainting housewife to highlight the bank’s superior customer service. However in light of recent events relating to its ATM glitch, is this shiny black and white veneer a mere facade?Let me set the scene. It’s just another sunny, Summer day when suddenly ATMs all over Sydney and Melbourne start spouting free money. A tech glitch has allowed Commonwealth Bank
customers to significantly over-withdraw their accounts at Commonwealth ATMs. The glitch was fixed within a few hours, but in that time hundreds had profited from this fortuitous malfunction.What does the bank that is “determined to be different” do?For starters, Commonwealth issued a forceful statement, making it sound as though Sydney had all of a sudden morphed into a scene reminiscent of German hyperinflation post WW1, with hordes of desperate punters strolling around Sydney with cash-filled wheelbarrows in tow; “Commonwealth Bank ATMs were not issuing free cash – some customers deliberately and systematically set out to withdraw money that wasn’t theirs.”The reality is that whilst there were ‘opportunists’ (who really think they can get away with over-withdrawing their own account in front of an ATM security camera?) who knowingly attempted to rip off Commbank, a significant portion of people affected seem to be misguided Commonwealth Bank customers unaware they were committing a crime.
Commbank has since come after them with real gusto. Letters were sent out to affected customers, asking them to make lump sum payments in a very short space of time and threatening them with court action. The ABC reportedly saw a letter to a welfare recipient threatening court action unless a debt of more than $700 was paid within 10 days.
What the Commonwealth seems to be forgetting is that these people aren’t just random street hoodlums – these people are their customers. You’d think in the current era of fierce banking competition (not to mention their current ad campaign) that would count for something. Is taking customers, some of whom are pensioners and welfare recipients, to court a good look for the Commonwealth Bank?
Either way, Ralph Norris and co. seem hellbent on getting the money back ASAP. In my opinion, if Commbank really are determined to be different, they need to reassess their approach. Does the recovery of a few thousand dollars now as opposed to over a few months outweigh the damage to the brand’s image?
That being said, maybe they have succeeded in being different after all. I mean, only Commonwealth could manage to come out of this whole mess looking like the bad guys even though they’re the original victims!