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Can RBS Group turn a bad week into a positive future?

As someone who has experience of socialising customer services for banks, I watched the fallout from the Natwest/RBS technical outage yesterday with great interest.

In particular I was struck by how quickly and strongly the customers reacted on social channels.

Natwest have a ticker on their homepage that shows recent customer comments from their Ideas Bank feedback section, and yesterday’s selection did not portray them in a very positive light.

In a way this public censure saddens me; it is precisely this fear of a social media backlash that stops banks from engaging more fully (if you tell a risk team that they can expect negative opinion on their public spaces they tend to panic a little….)

And this is a shame, as the benefits of opening dialogue with customers on social spaces far outweigh these perceived risks.

So, all credit to Natwest for riding out the storm and not removing the negative comment stream from their website.

Banks have a tough job (no really!); they have millions of customers, they are heavily regulated (so have to be very careful about how they talk with customers and what they share) and they are being threatened on every side by supermarkets, mobile providers and online start-ups that are encroaching on their business and who do customer service better.

On top of this, customer trust in banks has been eroded in the wake of the financial crisis – a recent YouGov poll found that only 28% of us trust high street banks.

They are scared to open the floodgates of public opinion and have it reflected back at them.

However, the same poll revealed, “62% of consumers strongly agree that brands behaving fairly and transparently with their customers would encourage trust”.

In the case of yesterday’s issue with NatWest/RBS, it is certainly the case that customers were inconvenienced and their anger was, in many cases, legitimate.  Why shouldn’t they rail against the institution that created these problems?

It is an important lesson for Natwest and RBS to realise the significant impact that such issues have on their customers and, at least in theory, it should give them insight on what is of key importance to customers so that they can prioritise their service delivery accordingly.

In fact, this is exactly why Natwest opened its branches early this morning to help customers who had been affected.

If this very public response to the banks failure means that RBS Group review their systems or pump more resources into their QA processes and eliminate the risk of such a glitch happening again, then everyone benefits.

This is the real value of transparent customer service engagement for banks, it’s not just about amplifying the positive aspects of your service, it’s about providing space for negative feedback and using this insight to understand and offer a better service to your customers overall.

Let’s hope that RBS Group recognise this and turn a lousy week into a long-term improvement for their customers.



Comments: (1)

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 25 June, 2012, 14:04Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Using a Twitter Sentiment analysis tool, we see RBS at 17% POSITIVE vs. 83% NEGATIVE and NATWEST at 28% POSITIVE vs. 72% NEGATIVE. With such an overwhelmingly negative sentiment, we can be sure that negative comments haven't been removed. After reading some of the negative tweets, I was shocked at the sheer amount of NSFW content present in them. Wonder if both banks might pull out of social media only for this reason, the way ICICI Bank in India partially did by refusing to entertain customer complaints on its FB page. By staying away from social media, banks will surely lose the opportunity to stoke positive feedback from their advocates. But, as a bank, they do have a commitment to keep their real estates free of such bad language, whether they deserve it or not.

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