RBC's apology a classic piece of crisis management

Tease the day: Gord Nixon's "open letter to Canadians" seeks to smooth things over with customers

Jeff McIntosh/CP

It may have taken the Royal Bank of Canada a few days, but they finally decided to manage the crisis that’s rocked its image. Ever since it came to light that an outsourcing firm, iGate, hired 45 temporary foreign workers to replace Canadian employees at RBC, the bank’s been on the defensive. Reporters have dug into the profitable relationship between iGate and RBC, and even Prime Minister Stephen Harper signalled his intent yesterday to reform the temporary foreign workers program.

This morning, RBC ran full-page ads in each national newspaper that apologized effusively for its mistakes, and pledging that all affected Canadian employees will find work elsewhere in the company. The disarming letter features all the hallmarks of classic crisis management: admit to an error, even if you followed the rules; explain that you meant no harm; emphasize that you’re listening to customers; apologize; and say it’ll never happen again. Finally, stand up for the good work your business has done since it opened its doors—oh, and thank all the good work your people do every day.

Here’s the letter, in full.

RBC has been in the news this week in a way no company ever wants to be.

The recent debate about an outsourcing arrangement for some technology services has raised important questions.

While we are compliant with the regulations, the debate has been about something else. The question for many people is not about doing only what the rules require – it’s about doing what employees, clients, shareholders and Canadians expect of RBC. And that’s something we take very much to heart.

Despite our best efforts, we don’t always meet everyone’s expectations, and when we get it wrong you are quick to tell us. You have my assurance that I’m listening and we are making the following commitments.

First, I want to apologize to the employees affected by this outsourcing arrangement as we should have been more sensitive and helpful to them. All will be offered comparable job opportunities within the bank.

Second, we are reviewing our supplier arrangements and policies with a continued focus on Canadian jobs and prosperity, balancing our desire to be both a successful business and a leading corporate citizen.

Third, our Canadian client call centres are located in Canada and support our domestic and our U.S. business, and they will remain in Canada.

Fourth, we are preparing a new initiative aimed at helping young people gain an important first work experience in our company, which we will announce in the weeks ahead.

RBC proudly employs over 57,000 people in Canada. Over the last four years, despite a challenging global economy, we added almost 3,000 full-time jobs in Canada. We also hire over 2,000 youth in Canada each year and we support thousands more jobs through the purchases we make from Canadian suppliers. As we continue to grow, so will the number of jobs for Canadians.

RBC opened for business in 1864 and we have worked hard since then to earn the confidence and support of the community. Today, we remain every bit as committed to earning the right to be our clients’ first choice, providing rewarding careers for our employees, delivering returns to shareholders who invest with us, and supporting the communities in which we are privileged to operate.

I’d like to close by thanking our employees, clients, shareholders and community partners for your input and continued support.

What’s above the fold this morning?

The Globe and Mail leads with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s pledge to reform Canada’s temporary foreign workers program. The National Post fronts NDP Leader Tom Mulcair’s attempt to remove socialist rhetoric from the party constitution. The Toronto Star goes above the fold with the “handgun pipeline,” a corridor that sees handguns smuggled into Canada. The Ottawa Citizen leads with the Public Service Alliance of Canada’s anti-Harper campaign that backfired online. iPolitics fronts the mixed reaction in Justin Trudeau’s riding to his potential future as prime minister. leads with a report that “cause of death” errors occur too frequently in Canadian hospitals. National Newswatch showcases a poll that has the federal Liberals leading the Conservatives and NDP.

Stories that will be (mostly) missed

1. Fracking. Environment Canada’s former deputy minister wanted industry to voluntarily disclose the potion of chemicals its members use when they undertake hydraulic fracturing to extract gas. 2. Parole. The Supreme Court will hear the case of three men who believe that, since they were sentenced before stricter parole rules came into effect, they should be eligible under old parole rules.
3. Harmful doctor. A physician in northern B.C. who was praised for unconventional attempts to save a woman’s life is being accused of harming other patients using unapproved methods. 4. Hells Angels. Quebec’s Court of Appeal upheld the release of 31 Hells Angels members whose trials would have taken too long to process. They faced gangsterism and drug trafficking charges.

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