Banks Struggle to Resolve Complaints On Twitter

NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Maybe it’s the 140-character limit, or the impersonality of social media; whatever the reason, a new study points out the apparently obvious: Twitter is no way to solve a customer service problem with your bank.

That conclusion was drawn by Javelin Research in a study titled “Banking and Social Media: Easy to Say, Hard to Do,” released last month.

The study examined customer service queries with Bank of America (Stock Quote: BAC), Citi (Stock Quote: C) and Wells Fargo (Stock Quote: WFC) via Twitter and found that the best of the three banks, Citi, was only able to satisfactorily answer 36% of Twitter queries from customers. Wells Fargo and Bank of America didn’t fare nearly as well, with 11% and 3% “satisfied” rates, respectively.

The study focused on a total of nearly 5,500 Twitter customer service responses during the week of November 4-8, 2011.

Admittedly, Javelin had its thumb on the scale a little bit. The San Francisco-based business analytical firm conducted its study on the three banks at a pivotal time – the week Bank of America announced the cancellation of its controversial $5 monthly debit card fee and when Bank Transfer Day was the talk of Main Street.

Still, as busy as bank customer service representatives were that week, the results just weren’t there on Twitter, Javelin reported.

“Confusion ensued as consumers were unsure which handles to access and too often received no response at all,” the study said.

A big part of the problem, the study suggests, is that customer service is a uniquely personal experience, and social media is not. Consequently, when a customer loses a debit card on a Friday night, getting a canned tweet on Saturday morning doesn’t do much for the customer’s piece of mind – or the bank’s credibility.