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Banks Are Boring on Social Media

A report from Carlisle & Gallagher Consulting Group polled consumers on their experience with financial institutions on social media.

A majority of consumers believe that banks' use of social media is ineffective, according to findings from a poll released today by Carlisle & Gallagher Consulting Group.

The firm polled 1,002 U.S. consumers online in an attempt to to uncover the important drivers for financial institutions to be successful in managing customer complaints and social media preparedness. Fifty-two percent of those who responded said they believe the use of social media by banks is ineffective, while 87 percent reported banks are "annoying, boring or unhelpful" on social media.

This is largely due to the messaging many banks present on social media channels, explains Dr. Patricia Sahm, CG’s Customer Experience and Channels practice lead.

Social media is about transparency, and if a bank's response to a customer's inquiry on social media isn't transparent or relevant it will come off as sounding unhelpful, she says. "Banks need to make their customers feel like they've resolved whatever problem there is and not give an ambiguous answer," Sahm notes.

As an example of what not to do on social media, Sahm cites one customer's story of sending a tweet at a bank alerting them that their mobile banking app was down, and the bank simply responded to the customer telling them to call an 800 number with no further information. That then led to the customer to complain about the bank on Twitter.

Even if a bank can't solve a problem immediately on social media, it should still give the customer as much information as possible and update them on when it will be solved. Banks that do rate highly on social media generally follow a model Sahm describes thusly: "They have a centralized social media team that can quickly reach out to the various subject matter experts at the bank to help answer customer questions quickly. Enabling your social media team to have really good, and quick, access to all the expertise in the bank, and access to data that sits in various stores across the enterprise, helps them answer customer questions or complaints much better."

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Sahm acknowledges that banks do face an inherent disadvantage on social media compared to other industries, namely that "financial services products may not be the most exciting thing people are thinking about every day." But that still does not absolve them of doing social media well, since it is often the channel customers use most to lodge complaints. According to the survey, one in three consumers would use social media to complain, with 54 percent saying Facebook would be the channel they would do so on. That was followed by Twitter at 18 percent, LinkedIn at 12 percent and blogs at 10 percent.

Sahm says that the responses to the survey were generally the same across age and demographic lines, meaning its not just one subset of customers banks have to worry about on social media.

Ultimately, says Sahm, regardless of the channel it is imperative for banks to resolve problems as quickly as they can for their customers.

"The minute it seems like you're not resolving the problem, it can very rapidly deteriorate the relationship," she adds.

[Related Content: How Banks Can Stay On Top of Customer Expectations]

Bryan Yurcan is associate editor for Bank Systems and Technology. He has worked in various editorial capacities for newspapers and magazines for the past 8 years. After beginning his career as a municipal and courts reporter for daily newspapers in upstate New York, Bryan has ... View Full Bio

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Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Author
3/18/2014 | 9:30:08 PM
re: Banks Are Boring on Social Media
I feel like people use social media to work around calling 800 numbers, so using a customer service phone number as a response to someone's complaint was a bad move. Given the amount of respondents saying they'd complain on social media, I think it's worth the time/effort/funds for banks to create dedicated social media teams. That number will only go up over time.
Byurcan
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Byurcan,
User Rank: Author
3/19/2014 | 1:27:55 PM
re: Banks Are Boring on Social Media
That's true, and that was Sahm's advice, having a dedicated team that can get quick responses back to customers is key.
Becca L
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Becca L,
User Rank: Author
3/20/2014 | 5:34:58 PM
re: Banks Are Boring on Social Media
The only time directing to a phone number is best is if it's a very specific number. Ex: This department (#) can give more details than we can fit in 140 characters. If they are just going to give the generic 1800 number I don't know why they would bother.
Becca L
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Becca L,
User Rank: Author
3/20/2014 | 5:44:56 PM
re: Banks Are Boring on Social Media
Customers must have some lowered level of expectation when engaging with banks over Twitter knowing they can't get too specific or answer questions related to their personal account. Their answers are also limited by 140 characters! Agreed that directing to 800 numbers is a bit extreme, but it does beg the question, what did the person ask?
Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Author
3/20/2014 | 6:42:13 PM
re: Banks Are Boring on Social Media
Very true, it does depend on the question. In response to a tweet saying their mobile app is down, I feel like the bank could have at least let them know they were working on the problem or given something a bit more personalized than a phone number. For longer answers, social media fans would probably be better off using Facebook.
KBurger
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KBurger,
User Rank: Strategist
3/19/2014 | 4:14:51 PM
re: Banks Are Boring on Social Media
Do you ever get the feeling that banks/financial services companies just can't win, no matter what they do (at least in the court of public opinion)? There have been some studies recently that suggest that consumers are opposed to FIs using analytics/insight to tailor communications with them, saying this is too intrusive. Then banks get criticized that their use of social media is too bland, generic, boring, etc. So what are they to do? I think some of Sahm's points that use of social media needs to be real-time, responsive to the actual need or inquiry, and human-based is very important. But I suspect that inevitably some banks that get very sophisticated with their uses of social media by incorporating customer insight into it are going to be slammed for, essentially, not being boring enough.
Jonathan_Camhi
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Jonathan_Camhi,
User Rank: Author
3/24/2014 | 5:21:30 PM
re: Banks Are Boring on Social Media
I think the needle is starting to move on customers' willingness to let banks use their social media for marketing purposes. In the end that will depend on the offer you present to the customer. If it's a great and relevant offer than they'll see value in allowing that use of their data. If not then there's going to be some angry customers.
Erica Starr
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Erica Starr,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/19/2014 | 6:07:33 PM
re: Banks Are Boring on Social Media
I 100% agree with the points around the use of social media needing to be transparent and handled real-time. That said, this makes it sound like the only place for social media for FIs is troubleshooting and handling complaints. I'm not sure that I'm on board with that idea. SM is a place for a FI to engage with their customers and show them the "human" side of banking. While checking and savings products aren't the most exciting topics to discuss on Facebook (or anywhere for that matter), how to save for college and/or top picks for 529 savings plans might be....to the right person AT the right time in their life. So its more about using SM as a medium to push the most relevant topic to the most relevant segment at the most relevant time. That said, you can run into some issues pushing those specific topics to the masses (all of your followers) and hoping to get much out of it. Its all about being strategic and knowing your audience. If you are only posting about the weather and the latest and greatest new checking account (that probably some online bank is already doing) yes, you're going to get the label of being boring.
Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Author
3/19/2014 | 6:49:46 PM
re: Banks Are Boring on Social Media
Great points, Erica - I think you're right that certain banking topics will generate more interest on social media than others. In addition to improving their responses to customer inquiries, banks could improve their social media reputation by linking to interesting content and sparking conversations with their followers. It could also be worth investigating the ages of different account followers so that banks would have a better idea of what to post on each page.
Nathan Golia
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Nathan Golia,
User Rank: Author
3/24/2014 | 8:02:56 PM
re: Banks Are Boring on Social Media
Thanks Erica. That's something we've seen in insurance G brands are trying to appear in their customers' feeds and demonstrate the value of the product and the security of the company through the content they choose to share through that channel.
JChesky
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JChesky,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/19/2014 | 6:58:24 PM
re: Banks Are Boring on Social Media
Bryan, congrats. Finally someone has put some data around this notion of consumers allegedly waiting for an FI's digital strategy to include a prerequisite 'SM' component. FI web ecosystems are a bad mash-up of stale brochureware and an unispired entry point for online banking services, period. I don't believe that will change until bank's have the courage to ask themselves a simple question - 'What am I willing to offer to my customers in my digital eco-system in exchange for their digital attention, their engagement and their permission?"
We think customers want an online eco-system that supports their financial services needs just like they get from Overstock.com or Amazon.com for their shopping, comparing and buying of commodities. We need to create an E-Branch where consumers can shop, compare, buy, enjoy a single check-out, and have a post sale online account that captures records of what they bought, how they paid for it, information about their account, and if needed again, account information that will be automatically stored and retrievable. Think Amazon Prime of Club O. And allowing consumers to comment and share their experiences inside this 'financial services' digitial store ---- with ratings/stars/likes ---- now we'd be onto something. And boy would they be engaged.
Nathan Golia
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Nathan Golia,
User Rank: Author
3/24/2014 | 8:05:07 PM
re: Banks Are Boring on Social Media
That is the question, isn't it? What will it take to get people to engage with all the effort we're putting into social media? It comes back to ROI. However, being an engaged company online might have unmeasurable benefits. If people know that you're at least trying you can get crucial messages out faster. See the conversation below about banks informing their customers about downtime on social.
Guest
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Guest,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/19/2014 | 8:42:16 PM
re: Banks Are Boring on Social Media
test
vernorson
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vernorson,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/20/2014 | 12:24:36 PM
re: Banks Are Boring on Social Media
Banks don't have to be always boring on social media - at least in Poland there was an advert that went viral (or actually a memetic mutation containing really naughty word said by banking female clerk went viral) see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...
Becca L
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Becca L,
User Rank: Author
3/20/2014 | 5:46:38 PM
re: Banks Are Boring on Social Media
Interesting... Can somebody translate?..
Becca L
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Becca L,
User Rank: Author
3/20/2014 | 5:42:24 PM
re: Banks Are Boring on Social Media
To me, Twitter is an avenue of convenience. Sending a tweet to a bank asking for information - knowing they are likely to respond within minutes - may actually be faster and easier than looking up an answer yourself. Especially if on the run, it's understandably convenient to compose a tweet @BankofAmerica than opening a web browser, typing in the question and clicking around.

If I tweet BofA as I'm going to work, and receive direction to the right website or phone number via tweet by the time I get out of the subway I'd consider it time saved.
Nathan Golia
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Nathan Golia,
User Rank: Author
3/24/2014 | 8:06:16 PM
re: Banks Are Boring on Social Media
In fact, they are using your fees and deposits to pay the people operating the social media presence G expeditious response is the least they can do!
Ivy Schmerken
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Ivy Schmerken,
User Rank: Author
3/20/2014 | 7:21:39 PM
re: Banks Are Boring on Social Media
Banks should be honest with their customers if a mobile app is down. I wonder if compliance has anything to do with avoiding that admission and preferring to keep it quiet. Of course this backfires in the long run.
Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Author
3/20/2014 | 8:21:41 PM
re: Banks Are Boring on Social Media
Avoiding a complaint about the app seems weird to me since users are inevitably going to find out about it (until it's fixed, anyway). That scenario could have less to do with avoidance and more to do with having an automated response system for the Twitter account.
Greg MacSweeney
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Greg MacSweeney,
User Rank: Author
3/24/2014 | 2:27:47 PM
re: Banks Are Boring on Social Media
As soon as any app or service goes down, people turn to twitter to find out what's happening. Recently, when my bank's website was really slow, i found out through twitter that it was having problems When google, hootsuite or facebook has problems, people turn to twitter or other social media to find out what's happening. It's foolish for a bank to avoid admitting it has a technical problem...everyone sees what's happening anyway.
Jonathan_Camhi
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Jonathan_Camhi,
User Rank: Author
3/24/2014 | 5:17:30 PM
re: Banks Are Boring on Social Media
That's also true during natural disasters. A lot of banks were communicating with customers through Twitter during Hurricane Sandy.
Becca L
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Becca L,
User Rank: Author
3/24/2014 | 7:02:03 PM
re: Banks Are Boring on Social Media
Yup, Whenever something isn't working I immediately turn to Twitter for comments like "Is anyone else having problems with X today?" In fact, that scenario is my earliest memory of finding Twitter useful. And to Jon's point, I also checked it when we had that random earthquake in NYC/DC - "did anyone else feel that?"
Jonathan_Camhi
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Jonathan_Camhi,
User Rank: Author
3/24/2014 | 5:19:00 PM
re: Banks Are Boring on Social Media
I think that banks are shy about admitting to some problems like this for competitive reasons. If you can't maintain the functionality of your mobile app for your customers then they will go elsewhere for their banking.
Becca L
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Becca L,
User Rank: Author
3/24/2014 | 7:29:44 PM
re: Banks Are Boring on Social Media
On the other side of this, I find it encouraging when a company can say "we're aware of the issue and working diligently to correct it, we appreciate your patience." Ignoring the problem makes me think they dont care about the user experience, a more "bare with us" attitude makes me feel like they know my pain. Good customer service is just more important to me than functionality - I'd rather be screwed over with a smile.
Jonathan_Camhi
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Jonathan_Camhi,
User Rank: Author
3/24/2014 | 7:46:02 PM
re: Banks Are Boring on Social Media
You're a patient customer. I think companies wish all their customers were willing to wait it out like that.
Becca L
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Becca L,
User Rank: Author
3/26/2014 | 5:08:42 PM
re: Banks Are Boring on Social Media
Ha, well if you're going to walk around this world expecting everything to go smoothly and find all blips inexcusable, you're going to have a bad time.
Greg MacSweeney
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Greg MacSweeney,
User Rank: Author
3/27/2014 | 7:57:03 PM
re: Banks Are Boring on Social Media
Most customers are reasonable and know that 'stuff happens.' Own up to it, be open about the problems, get it fixed and move on. Ignoring the problem just allows the problem to get worse.
Becca L
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Becca L,
User Rank: Author
3/27/2014 | 9:16:16 PM
re: Banks Are Boring on Social Media
As long as there's not a major issue to address on a weekly basis I think customers will be understanding. People aren't exactly trigger happy about switching banks - it's a thought process that builds up, a social media blunder can be the straw that breaks the camel's back but it's probably not going to be the main event.
Kelly22
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Kelly22,
User Rank: Author
3/25/2014 | 12:17:09 PM
re: Banks Are Boring on Social Media
While I can see how that kind of message would frustrate impatient customers, I agree with you. If I didn't at least get some kind of "we're working on it" message, I'd be more annoyed.
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