Tracking the detractors: How U.S. Bank keeps tabs on review sites

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Some folks in today's social-media-obsessed world have adopted the mantra of "What other people think about me is none of my business.” But for businesses, people's opinions matter.

However, given the number of sites available for people to pour praise — or more realistically, complain — it can be daunting to keep track of everything everyone is saying.

For the last two years, U.S. Bank has been relying on technology from ReviewTrackers, a company that aggregates data from public review sites on the web, as a tool to help see how its customers view the bank. The company looks at feedback left on general consumer sites, like Yelp or Google reviews, as well as financial-specific sites such as Credit Karma, or mortgage-specific sites like Trulia, said Troy Janisch director of social intelligence for the bank. In all, ReviewTrackers helps the Minneapolis-based bank track nearly two dozen sites.

“Review sites are one more excellent resource to see how you’re doing and even benchmarking against competitors,” since review data is available on competing brands, Janisch said.

Although banks have become more engaged with customers through social media over the past few years by responding to their complaints on Twitter and Facebook, observers say U.S. Bank’s strategy is a step beyond what most banks do.

“It's not that other institutions don't monitor customer satisfaction from different perspectives (they do), but USB's initiative of actively tracking online review sites is something that hasn't been mentioned much in banking customer research,” said Ed O’Brien, executive vice president for the consumer research and consulting firm ath Power Consulting. “USB appears to be taking cues from omnichannel retailing, and using key elements as part of an expanded omnichannel banking strategy.”

U.S. Bank used to just looked at Yelp reviews — the review site would send it reports on spreadsheets which offered limited information and wasn’t easy to analyze, Janisch said. ReviewTrackers has a dashboard where issues can be labeled — “In progress,” for instance. The data is better organized, collaboration is easier and managing feedback is streamlined.

“We have a more accurate view of our locations through the eyes of customers than we’ve ever had,” Janisch said.

The bank primarily uses the data to see how customers rated in-branch experiences, though it also uses ReviewTrackers to aggregate data from app store reviews for feedback on its mobile banking. So far, U.S. Bank has tracked data from more than 24,400 online reviews, covering more than 3,100 branch locations. (ReviewTrackers said it has other financial services clients, but declined to give names or say how many.)

Every week, members of Janisch’s team and other appropriate departments receive an automated email with a “reviews snapshot.” The bank can tailor the snapshot to capture any information or keywords in the reviews and highlight it, Janisch said, for example if mentions of discrimination are made or if customers feel they were treated unfairly. These cases can then be escalated to determine their validity, he said.

U.S. Bank also keeps track of complaints posted on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s website.

“We use it to identify issues, hopefully before they turn into complaints,” Janisch said. “The platform is part of our upstream monitoring, so that not only are we able to solve people’s problems earlier, we are also able to leverage that in order to improve the customer experience.”

Feedback is shared with branch managers, as well as regional directors to ensure situations of poor customer experience are addressed, or conversely, acknowledging those locations that have provided an outstanding customer experience, Janisch said.

“These reviews [on review sites] tend to be really bad or really good,” he added. “It makes it easier to find trends on great service or poor service.”

Janisch said online reviews are often more helpful than feedback from other social media sites, which typically is made in the heat of the moment and not as thought out.

“They’re also more in-depth, as there are often character limits on social media,” such as Twitter, he added. “These review sites can be a way of really getting to the pulse of what’s happening,” he said.

Also, despite “squeaky wheel gets the grease” wisdom, most consumers don’t use social media to give feedback to their bank, O’Brien said.

Only about 8% of consumers reported having ever contacted their bank via social media, according to a recent survey by ath Power.

And unlike social media, O’Brien said, online reviews “tend to be more balanced; they’re a strong indicator of customer satisfaction. Social media is more likely used for venting.”

Although most banks survey their customers, it is still important for banks to proactively seek out other forms of feedback, Janisch said.

“We do have [voice of the customer] surveys, but often when people want to leave feedback they want to do it on their own time and their own way,” and not just when the bank sends a survey, he said.

Information left in online reviews often goes unnoticed and unincorporated by banks, said Chris Campbell, ReviewTrackers' CEO.

"Online reviews provide a gateway into the thoughts and feelings of customers,” he said. “Within the feedback found in online reviews, banks can uncover customer pain points that they may not have been aware of otherwise.

However, Janisch stressed that online reviews, while important, are still just one part of how the bank evaluates the overall customer experience.

“It’s one more tool we can use,” he said.

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Social media Customer experience National banks U.S. Bank