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December 6, 2012

High Street banks embracing social media

Research shows that the quality of customer service among banks has increased as more turn to social media to address customer inquiries.

By Tineka Smith

A study by Virgin Media Business has revealed that nearly two-thirds of UK high street banks using Twitter are responding to customer complaints and questions within an hour.

The survey comes after research showed all of the UK’s leading banks now use Twitter as a way to communicate with their customers.

NatWest was found to have the fastest Twitter response time for customer queries with an average of four minutes.

"Social media helpdesks are becoming common in industries where businesses interact daily with customers. They’re becoming like virtual stores. It’s really encouraging to see the banking industry is taking a lead on this with every major high street bank using Twitter to engage with customers," said Phil Stewart, director of customer services, Virgin Media Business.

"Social networking sites are a great way to engage with customers in real-time, but simply having a presence is not enough. Organisations need to make sure they’re interacting with individual customers and responding to queries within an appropriate time from when they first get in touch. Great customer service on any platform should be the rule, not the exception."

The study comes after a Gartner report in October predicted that social media will shape the future of the banking industry.

Gartner said that digital mega-firms will alter the way the banking industry develops by making consumers better informed along with eventually providing niche financial services themselves.

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Gartner vice president, David Furlonger said that banking institutions need to understand the importance of moving away from traditional models and adapt.

"Traditional models no longer apply to many of their customers or markets. They have a series of questions to address – do they simply copy the new opposition, do they try and exert influence over the broader market, do they look for help and partners, do they need to fundamentally restructure?" said Furlonger. "For many existing financial services institutions, mapping out the path to the future is proving extremely difficult and challenging."

The firm’s analysts predict traditional banks will maintain their place over online-based rivals but that digital firms like Apple and Facebook will help shape the future financial services industry.

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