Last week was a scary one for the web, as big news companies like the New York Times, the Washington Post (NYSE: GHC ) and The Wall Street Journal reported their sites being breached by Chinese hackers. So when the Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) website went down last Friday, nerves were already raw. Happily, though, the problem rested with the big bank itself, whose online and mobile banking apps -- and even their telephone service -- suffered an outage of approximately 10 hours.
Whew. After terrorists disrupted cyber service at big banks such as JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) , Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC ) , Citigroup (NYSE: C ) , and US Bancorp (NYSE: USB ) last fall, you would think that everyone, particularly the bank's customers, would be relieved that it was only a wonky technical issue.
It seemed, however, that this was one outage too many for those who bank with the big guy, and a chorus of customer complaints and analysts criticisms ensued. They've got a point: B of A seems to have more numerous and long-lasting outages than other banks, and it's getting on customers' nerves. So much so, in fact, that it may be putting the bank's newly minted customer-service facelift in jeopardy.
An ongoing problem
Excluding bona fide hacking incidents, B of A has a long history of website blackouts, so it's not surprising that anger is beginning to swell. I did a little digging and came up with some very disturbing numbers for online problems at Bank of America from SiteDown.co.
Scrolling through various websites shows that big banks have boatloads of issues when it comes to web availability for their customers. Wells Fargo has over 3,300 reports of site outages, JPMorgan's Chase site registers nearly 2,100, and Citi has an excess of 1,500 complaints. And Bank of America? A stunning 9,400 outage reports. Is this any way to run an upwardly mobile banking business? Even keeping in mind that these are voluntary, often anonymous reports over time, there is very clearly something wrong with B of A's system, and it's definitely not getting any better.
Excessive outages need to be addressed
Indeed, as customers took to Twitter and other outlets to vent their frustration, analysts weighed in on how the big bank needs to get its act together. Considering the amount of money that B of A has invested in its mobile and online banking sectors -- over $500 million since 2008 -- some critics find it outrageous that the bank has no backup for the times when the system is down, leaving over 12 million customers in the dark.
I have to say I agree. Now that the bank is making an all-out effort to be kinder and gentler to consumers, constantly irking them with online and mobile outages is like the big bank shooting itself in the foot. After investing $500 million, B of A needs to spend some cold, hard cash to fix these problems, or risk more dings to its already tarnished reputation for customer service.
Will B of A finally get on the stick and fix these long-term problems? To keep up with the progress being made in this arena -- as well as others -- check out our in-depth company report on Bank of America. The report details Bank of America's prospects, including three reasons to buy and three reasons to sell. Just click here to get access.