October 30, 2012

Banks are starting to reopen branches in parts of the Eastern U.S. hit less hard by Hurricane Sandy over the last couple of days. The Boston Globe reported that Bank of America, Citizens Bank and TD Bank, among others had already reopened their branches in Massachusetts as of Tuesday afternoon.

But bank branches in other parts of the country more heavily damaged from Sandy's stampede like New Jersey and New York remain closed for the time being. Many banks have turned to social media to update their customers on branch closings and reopening, as well as alternative means to access their banking services.

Citibank informed customers on its Facebook page that its branches in Maryland, Virginia, Washington D.C. and Massachusetts had reopened today. The bank's New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania branches remained closed. But limited branch openings in those states are possible tomorrow, the bank advised, adding that customers could find support through the bank's Twitter help page.

Bank of America also told customers through a Facebook post that it would be regularly updating its branch locator with new closings and openings.

Wells Fargo used Facebook to inform customers that the bank would be waving late payment fees this week as a result of the storm. The bank said that most of its branches in the Northeast would likely remain closed tomorrow; and a number of the bank's employees expressed frustration at having to work at branches on Monday when the storm was moving in.

Both TD Bank and Capital One Bankposted links to their emergency and assistance plans for dealing with the hurricane's damage, along with safety tips for those in the hurricane's path.

But customers also left comments on some bank's pages apparently expecting more from their institutions (such as credit limit increases) in helping cope with Sandy's aftermath. Banks are still dealing with the backlash of the financial crisis. Helping customers deal with a disaster like this is clearly an opportunity to earn public goodwill and improve customer satisfaction. And when phone service is disrupted, as it was in many areas hit by Sandy, social media provides a convenient vehicle for banks to reach their customers and provide the services they need.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jonathan Camhi is a graduate of the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism, where he focused on international reporting and interned at the Hindustan Times in Delhi, ...