Twice in the past few weeks, I’ve written blog posts that had one or more criticisms about specific experiences with a bank’s product. My complaints weren’t Huff Post calls to arms or anything particularly serious, just small things that had gone wrong (previous posts here and here). And our blog, while well-read in the banking industry, is just a rounding error in terms of mainstream readership.
But in both these examples, the bank reached out to me almost immediately, offering to help solve the problem. In one case, I received a phone call (several actually) from the bank’s PR department and the other bank left a message on our home phone (note 1) from the “executive office.”
My take: I am shocked to have heard not once, but twice in the same month from mega-banks looking to solve small, albeit public, customer-service issues. In 15 years of covering the industry, including three with a public blog, I have never had a single “official” call from a bank about a problem I’ve written about (note 2).
Businesses have long debated how to handle negative conversations in social media (see note 3). Do you stay on the sidelines, anonymously participate in the conversation, or reach out with offers to help?
Clearly, offering to help is the way to go. However, you must choose your words carefully because everything you say can and will be used against you by a blogger bent on revenge or ridicule.
But I can tell you now from experience that it’s powerful to be contacted by the business you’ve written about. My reaction goes something like this:
- “Uh oh, now I’ve offended a reader; I’d better think twice about posting negative comments again.” At the very least, I’ll certainly make sure my coverage is extremely balanced in the future. No potshots, that’s for sure.
- “Wow, this bank really cares about its customers and reputation.” That makes me feel much better about them.
- “Seriously, a big bank that calls its customers when it hears about a problem; impressive as hell!”
So going forward:
- I’m more likely to look for something good to say about the bank to make up for the negative item.
- I may post an update to the original entry, or even an entire post like this, complimenting the bank on reaching out to resolve the problem.
- I’ll probably tell my friends the story, either privately, or more publicly via Twitter, Facebook, etc.
These are pretty good results from a relatively low-cost phone call. Sure, my problems were fairly simple and easily resolved, and it may be harder to appease a blogger whose home was recently foreclosed. But why not try? As long as you stay calm and try to keep things constructive, there’s very little downside and a lot of upside.
1. The bank must have looked at our actual account info to get the home phone number.
2. I have received the occasional email from a subscriber, but no proactive effort to provide help.
3. For a wonderful overview of the ins and outs of responding to bloggers, read the two-part post (here and here) from Vancity’s MVP and third-ranked innovator on the planet, William Azaroff.