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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.

Banks primarily use Twitter to “hand off” problems to live customer service reps, likely leaving customers to wonder why they just didn’t pick up the phone or walk into a branch in the first place to solve a banking problem.

Still, Javelin does believe that banks, customers and Twitter can eventually enjoy a productive relationship – if banks figure out how to use the technology to satisfy their customers.

After all, Twitter has 100 million active users officially, and the company says it has 462 million users actually registered with a forecast of 500 million by March 2012.

As James Van Dyke, president of Javelin, said in a statement, “Social media is the next frontier for the financial institution and consumer relationship.”

Right now, though, that frontier resembles the wild, wild, west.

For more updates on the banking industry and social networks, visit MainStreet’s Banks and Social Media topic pages!

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