(Oregonian (Portland, OR) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 13--Thousands of people lost access to their money for an entire day last week when Simple Technology Finance Corp., a Portland company that offers online banking services, suffered a prolonged outage as the company moved to a new system for processing financial transactions.
Nearly all online companies suffer outages, of course, including Facebook, Google and other giants. But for an upstart looking to persuade people that it offers a safe place to store their money, Simple's downtime -- which was noted by tech blogs and online financial news sites -- was particularly painful.
"I am deeply sorry," chief executive Josh Reich wrote in a blog post Wednesday. "I have spent the past week working alongside our Customer Relations team, answering your questions and hearing your frustrations. I know there is nothing I can say that will fix the damage, and I know a few of you still face issues. We let you down. We're doing everything we can to help make things right."
Unmentioned in the apology, customers who experienced the extended outage received $50 credits to make up for its lapse.
"We tossed around all kinds of ideas, but in the end, we decided you could choose what best fits your life, so we've credited your account with $50," wrote a note from the company one client posted on Twitter.
Simple has indicated the outage affected fewer than 10 percent of its more than 120,000 customers, so the credits likely cost the company more than $600,000.
Simple aims to use mobile technology and Twitter-like features to make it easier, and more appealing, for members of the smartphone generation to manage their money, track their spending and plan their savings.
It sold in February to the Spanish bank BBVA for $117 million and now operates as an independent subsidiary -- one of very few Portland tech companies with a focus on consumer technology.
BBVA's deep pockets enabled Simple to expand its staff, which in turn enabled it to bring on more customers and wipe out its waitlist.
Around 10 percent of Simple's customers lost service last Wednesday during the troubled migration to the new transaction processor which, Reich wrote, Simple built itself.
Simple's core customer base is active on social media, where clients often proclaim their love for the service. But last week the company weathered a good deal of Twitter scorn, which in turn triggered critical articles from the tech gossip site Valleywag and from CNNMoney.
During the outage, Reich and his Portland customer service team set about placating customers -- helping some out of financial jams and buying dinners for others:
Credit where it's due to @simple: What other bank would call my local @Donatos and order a pizza for me when my card swipes aren't working?
-- Kevin Pfefferle (@KPfefferle) August 7, 2014
In his blog post, Reich wrote that Simple is still doing a "post-mortem" to understand why things went wrong. But he wrote that clients' financial information was never at risk, and that "it's unlikely that a disruption like this will happen again."
Occasional outages plagued the two-year-old service in its early days, including a two-hour disruption on New Year's Eve in 2012, but none was as serious as last week's issue and the service appeared to be more stable as it had grown more established.
Dependability is obviously key to a financial services company, and Reich wrote Wednesday that the company will work assiduously to regain clients' trust.
"Making it all up to you starts here, with the most heartfelt apology and clearest explanation I can offer," he wrote.
Note: This article was updated with information about Simple's $50 credit.
Wednesday's apology was very well received on Twitter:
-- Alex Benson (@alexbensonphoto) August 13, 2014
Greatly appreciate the humble apology, @simple. How un-bank-like of you! I will continue to recommend your honest services.
-- Kim Jones (@owlpacino) August 13, 2014
This month @Chase froze all my accounts for days bc they couldn't verify a payment, and @Simple gave me $50 for downtime I didn't notice
-- PJ Vogt (@PJVogt) August 13, 2014
@i2pi Apology accepted. Chin up. Thanks for being so forthcoming about it.
-- Rick Turoczy (@turoczy) August 13, 2014
Thank you @simple. Things happen. Mistakes are made. But your response/apology sets you a part. Such honesty and transparency.
-- Paige Miller (@pmills09) August 13, 2014
-- Mike Rogoway; twitter: @rogoway; 503-294-7699
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