On Friday before the long weekend, the Interac e-Transfer* service went down for the best part of the day. You may have been one of the many hundreds who lined up on Twitter to berate them, and I confess that I was, and you can be sure there were many thousands more who fumed in private. To their credit, Interac responded quickly to most complaints, and kept people informed with their 140 character updates throughout the day.
Previously flawless and almost invisible, this important transactional system was suddenly very much in the spotlight. Fortunately for Interac, the system appears to have been reset with no losses or errors, limiting the damage, but the issues will live beyond fixing the problem - Their credibility has taken a major hit.
For any company that handles your money, credibility is their foundation. At FCV we regularly refer to Peter Morville's Facets of User Experience and when we are dealing with our Financial Services clients, credibility is highlighted as the #1 element - No cred, no customers. It's as simple as that.
Even at the murky end of Canadian financial organizations; the Mogos and Money Marts of this world, we still see them make every effort to mimic credibility - with strong brands, clear messaging, financial-looking establishments, and authentic sounding security notices and fine print (even if the fine print hides the insanity of their annual equivalent interest rates!).
On Friday the tweets @Interac kept coming, and I'm sure engineers at their IT centre had their bosses standing over their shoulders for several hours - It was clear that people did not enjoy their time in a strange kind of financial limbo - unsure where their money really was, when it may return, and whether they would be able to meet urgent payments on time, and even if there were any other options.
This single problem raises a broader issue though – That we are freer with our financial details than ever before, sharing our precious details with our smartphones, multiple computers at work and home, and even 3rd party applications like Mint.com - Trust is assumed, transactional security and reliability are not just expected but never even considered.
It would only take one major information leak for Mint to see their hard-earned user based evaporate, for example, and what happens when there's a really big failure, and people's money goes missing?
While Interac has work to do to repair customer trust, in a wider sense the digital financial network we all rely on, often without questioning, has been made to look a little fragile.
Were you affected?
How did it make you feel?
Will you be using the service again?
*Update Sept. 05, 2012: A representative from Interac has clarified that only the Interac e-Transfer service was affected.