Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Last week the New York Times reported Big Banks are struggling to address customer complaints via Twitter. Overall banks poorly handle customer complaints generated on Twitter.

A recent report on how banks use social media was published by the market research firm Javelin Strategy & Research. Focusing on Bank of America (BoA), Wells Fargo and Citigroup, Javelin analyzed more than 5000 tweets sent by Big Banks from Sept. 20 to Nov. 10 of last year when the social climate was tense between the 99% and the perceived 1%. A lot happened in those two months: Occupy Wall Street, BoA’s debit card fee announcement, and Bank Transfer Day.

Banks were measured on their ability to resolve the issue via Twitter or if the customer was instructed to contact the bank directly. BoA fared the worst with a 3% resolution of customer complaints. (Troubling since I’ve been a BoA customer for more than 10 years.) Citigroup ranked highest at 36% and Wells Fargo resolved 11% of all complaints. Now these are not great numbers across the board, but it’s obvious that the Big Banks are at least attempting to engage with their customers online.

Two problems were identified. Firstly Big Banks appeared to use scripted language when tweeting, which effectively puts the burden on the customer. Secondly customers were tweeting @ replies to the wrong handles, which meant that many misdirected messages were never answered.

All three organizations reached out to the NYT to comment.

Our Twitter team is dedicated to identifying and resolving customer’s individual issues,” Bank of America spokeswoman Tara Burke said in an e-mail. “After initial contact we take the issue off-line to protect the privacy of the customer. We never disclose or ask our customers to disclose any confidential information during our interactions using Twitter.

Javelin’s advice can be applied to any company looking to engage with their customers online. Answer initial questions directly and quickly; if need be take the conversation private on Twitter or provide an offline contact. Also, remember the customer is hoping to reach a real person, try to personalize your responses.

Have you used Twitter to contact a business? Was your issue resolved to your satisfaction?


3 thoughts on “Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

  1. I tried contacting Delta via Twitter in 2010 after a flight cancellation; I never got a reply. I actually logged into Twitter from my phone to follow Delta hoping they would see the message. I ended up sending a message using a form on their website and was contacted by email. It worked out in the end. Perhaps they’ve gotten better in the last two years.

  2. I haven’t had a personal experience but I definitely think that banks should be looking at the comments posted and should respond to them. There should be one or more people’s jobs who have to deal with those. It should be part of customer service. Also they should search for things that are not correctly tagged to the company since you said that some are tagged incorrectly. Unfortunately, even though the data shows banks are particularly not responding to customers, the reason behind this has to do with the fact that customers usually stay with their banks for a long time due to the high switching costs. People are actually more likely to change their spouse than their bank. Therefore, what is the incentive for the banks to answer customer complaints? I think that it would help people build more trust in their banks and then do more business there. Also, banks may not care to help unprofitable customers.

  3. I have not used Twitter to contact a company about a complaint. Whether it be on the phone or in person, I like instant feedback from customer service, which cannot be achieved through Twitter.

    To me, fielding customer complaints over Twitter seems like a bad idea. Besides the issues mentioned in the post (sending complaints to the wrong Twitter handles, having to take conversations offline, etc.), it seems like Twitter is the wrong medium for customer service. How many complaints can be answered in only 140 characters or less? I would assume not many. For all these reasons, I think it would be best for the banks to use phone or email to handle customer complaints.

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