A warning for online banking? What Google’s outage means for mobile-only banking

Google’s outage has reverberations across multiple sectors, impacting banking customers

In November, Google announced their plan to upgrade their Google Pay mobile payments platform by adding powerful banking and money management features called “Plex” to the app. In what some called a direct play for banking customers, Plex will include checking and savings accounts, as well as management tools that “could be a major customer acquisition advantage.” Enhancing its suite of offerings to appeal to younger, underbanked customers, Plex attracts people looking for a high-tech alternative with some banking functionality – like deposits, transactions and payments – but without all the fees.

But what happens to mobile banking customer access that’s only available virtually, when there’s a massive cascading outage like the one that took down a dozen of Google’s services and persisted over several days in mid-December? Normally, if customers have access issues with their mobile app or online banking, they know they have the local branch to depend on when problems arise. A local branch can provide staffed or automated call-in chat or customer service line, providing more traditional means of getting support (and funds) until the online platform is back up. Such is not the case a redesigned Google Pay app – or any other online-only neobank, for that matter. This is a recipe for customer service and UX disaster.

The takeaway for ALL banks – traditional and neobank, alike? Have numerous customer contact and access points and communicate proactively. In short, plan for the unlikeliest of scenarios. If you never need to pull the trigger on the crisis plan, you’re lucky. If you do, you’re prepared. While it may be rare for online services to go down, especially with a tech company known for it robust, duplicative backups, outages do happen. Just ask Google.