UOB lauded for "fair and firm" stance following coffee shop saga

Over the weekend, UOB found itself to be a target of criticism following a viral video which saw a couple, whom netizens claim to be UOB employees, having a scuffle with an elderly man, who was later physically pushed.

An unfortunate case of misreporting led to the bank having to release two statements on the matter to distance itself after being dragged into the spotlight, following an online witch hunt on the identities of the couple. Not only did the bank swiftly debunk claims that the infamous couple featured in the video was not employees of UOB, it also took a hard stance against the couple in the video saying it was “shameful and deplorable”.

UOB's quick response and statement on social media, despite the drama happening on a Sunday, was impressive to many.

In a conversation with Marketing, Kristian Olsen, managing director of Type A, UOB’s approach in addressing the matter was a fair and firm one. Despite ongoing investigations into whether the people involved were in fact UOB staff, the brand did not jump the gun until there was a confirmation.

“They took a strong stance to let the public know that while investigations were ongoing, UOB was not one to accept this kind of behaviour from their employees - a strong brand message,” Olsen added. The bank’s subtlety in not telling users to involve the brand further or in the future until accusations were confirmed was also a good one, said Olsen.

“Following the confirmation that the staff was not theirs, UOB also followed up with a message that not only pushed the brands positioning on the deplorable behaviour, but also made the point that unsubstantiated claims and accusations needed to stop,” Olsen explained.

Agreeing with Olsen is Joe Escobedo, director of marketing, Happy Marketer, who added that if the recent United Airlines PR fiasco has taught brands anything, it is that they must respond swiftly and empathetically to potential issues.

It's always better to tell your story before the netizens tell it for you.

“UOB did a great job of not only quickly addressing the situation in its first social post, but also following up with clarifications shortly after. That's one way to put a halt to the troll train. The only thing they could've done better is sound more like a person and less like a robot,” Escobedo said.

Rika Sharma, general manager and head of Social@Ogilvy Singapore added that the mention of UOB and smearing of its brand was definitely pre-mature.

"It is great reminder to everyone from media outlets, online publications and those that publicly post – there is no replacement for ensuring all facts are verified before posting/publishing,” Sharma said.

What brands should do in similar situations

Despite the drama, Sharma was of the view that UOB did a good job at combating this situation, from their timely first response right through to providing clear closure to the incident.

Hence for brands which find themselves in a similar situation, she suggests the following tips:

  1. Listen: It is always important for brands to be monitoring conversation and sentiment online.
  2. When a brand is alerted of the issue, acknowledge the issue/situation publicly.
  3. Do so on platforms/channels that are public facing (best where most conversations is taking place).
  4. State that the brand is investigating the matter. An immediate solution doesn't need to be provided.
  5. If the brand is running a public facing campaign, it is best to 'pause' it until the matter is resolved.
  6. Be sure to have a trained spokesperson and a crisis team ready to be activated where needed.
  7. Reveal the results of the investigation on the matter and set out a clear time frame for any action steps to be taken if required.