Retail Banking #2: Helpdesks as part of the social enterprise

In our second post about retail banking we examine the Twitter accounts of bank helpdesks and how they have an important role to play in promoting customer satisfaction.

‘I am sat on your helpline and slowly losing the will to live…’


‘I am abroad and locked out of my account’

Three different posts from the last month.

From dealing with mild irritation to red-faced outrage, the Twitter accounts of bank helpdesks are at the forefront of the move to socialise customer relationships.

Customers experience a range of practical problems from seeking help with opening a new account, accessing money abroad or navigating an online banking platform. Such are the small everyday challenges we experience with our banks and usually a simple remedy is all we require. For more serious problems such as replacing a lost credit card or suspected fraud our expectations of effective action are much greater.

But whether the problem is serious or not, every contact is an opportunity for the bank to strengthen its relationship with the customer. Customers remember how their problem was answered long after the problem itself has ceased to be relevant.

Here’s a quick data point for you, assembled from a month-long study of the helpdesk Twitter accounts operated by Nationwide, Santander, HSBC and Natwest. We examined the emotional state of customers when they first contacted the helpdesk and then again after they had received advice.


By creating a pre/post exposure analysis, we can see how the anger expressed by customers at the initial stage dissipates as the helpdesk teams engage and support them.

If we remove the majority of queries relating to practical questions and focus on customers who express a strong emotional response to their bank, the net gain in customer satisfaction is more evident. Addressing the complaints of some customers remains ‘a work in progress’ but the doubling of the satisfaction rate in the post-engagement group would be welcomed by any retention manager.


These helpdesks operate in public, so customers share the experiences of others. A second opportunity presents itself; helpdesks influence the attitudes of the customers they speak to directly and also perceptions in the wider customer base.

Banks might be difficult beasts to love, but customers want to feel that they are being looked after.

One observation from this study may help explain why a proportion of customers remain angry with their bank, even after helpdesk intervention. Helpdesks cannot do very much. They can explain processes but are limited when it comes to making things happen. This means they have to direct customers elsewhere, despite the customer coming to them for an answer.

Advances in fintech and mobile technology mean banks are becoming embedded in the daily lives of customers. Cashless transactions ease our path through public transport, the supermarket and the coffee shop. How we use our accounts is as much a lifestyle choice as a financial one. In these days of next-to-no interest rates for savers, ease of use and access to effective support when we need it makes us feel better about our bank and tells us that our money is in the right place.


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