Bank Of America Takes Comments, But What Is It Hearing?

There was an article in the Boston Globe this week called “Feedback, even if it hurts” which talked about how companies like Bank Of America are allowing customers to provide feedback on their Web sites. So I decided to go take a look at Bank Of America’s customer feedback. Here’s what I found:

As you can see, 95% of people would recommend the BofA’s online banking, 85% would recommend its Bill Pay, 94% would recommend its mortgages, and 67% would recommend its mobile banking. And all of those products received more than 4 stars (in a five star rating).

That feedback was much more positive than what I expected given that banks didn’t fare so well in Forrester’s Customer Experience Index which ranked Bank Of America 91st out of 112 firms. So I looked at what consumers had to say about Bank of America on the Epinions site. It turns out that Bank of America came out with a rating of 2 out of 5 stars:

Hmmmm….  These are clearly two different sets of feedback: One positive, and one not so positive. What’s happening here?!?!?

My take: Let me start by saying that I have no reason to believe that Bank Of America is doing anything to alter the scores on their site. I think that there’s merit in what a spokesperson for Bank of America said about the difference between feedback sites:

There are many other sites that allow product ratings of our products but those sites can not guarantee those customers are even Bank of America customers. We guarantee these are truly Bank of America customers since we validate which accounts they own, which is something the other rating sites cannot promise.

It’s likely that the need for customer authentication on the Bank of America site has some influence on the types of comments that are being left. People tend to be freer with their comments when they can stay anonymous. In any case, it’s clear that companies need to look at feedback on their own sites as well as feedback from other sources.

A word of caution: Getting access to feedback is only one part of a voice of the customer (VoC) program. Companies often spend the bulk of their time/effort trying to get the feedback, and not nearly enough time figuring out what to do with it.  That’s why good VoC programs are built around LIRMing, which means they have a formalized approach to Listening, Interpreting, Reacting, and Monitoring

The bottom line: Allowing customers to post comments does not constitute listening to the voice of the customer.

About Bruce Temkin, CCXP
I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

11 Responses to Bank Of America Takes Comments, But What Is It Hearing?

  1. There’s some good research from the Computers As Social Actors folks at Stanford (Nass/Reeves) that shows you what happens when a computer system asks you to evaluate it…it gets ranked higher because we don’t want to – in essence – hurt its feelings.

  2. Steve A Furman says:

    Ratings can be a false friend and only tell part of the story. As a consumer you have to dig for someone’s comments/insights (not just ratings), that maps to what you consider paramount when interacting with a brand. Is it the channel experience, service, selection, price? No large company can keep all the silverware polished. But if the drawer you open most often is always tarnished, then you might want to look elsewhere.

    Great point Bruce about the inordinate amount of time spent collecting customer comments. So many challenges there, but it is getting better.

  3. Bruce Temkin says:

    Great feedback from Steves. I’ll take a look at the referenced Stanford research. It seems like quantum theory: the act of observing affects the observed reality. And the comment about dissecting feedback is an excellent point: a bad rating only tells you that there is a problem, not where it is or how to fix it.

  4. Rob Findlay says:

    Being new to a large organisational structure and culture, I’m having difficulty understanding why this form of feedback would be resisted. Part of a modern, customer experience delivering business is openness and honesty (literally 2 words in our guiding principles by the way). Creating real time, open dialogue that at times, and there will always be times, will turn to venting and bank bashing, means we understand and are OPEN to dialogue and feedback. For me, customer surveys and focus groups just dont seem to be cutting it – any way we can get direct input is great. But yes the challenge is not gathering data, as we all know. Its what insight we get and how we respond …

  5. Bruce Temkin says:

    Rob: Thanks for your comment. Large organizations tend to lose sight of customers and overly focus on their internal products, organizations, and politics (see my post: “Your Customers Are Martians“). Hopefully you will not fall into that trap!

  6. Rob Findlay says:

    Bruce – have been and am guilty of that given I sit in the strategy team for channel mgt – which means I have conversations about customers in one minute, then about allocating FTE or campaign reporting or ‘migrating to self-service’ in the next … independence of bank framework by customer experience teams is key!

  7. Pingback: Sales 2.0 - Social Media - Support is the New Marketing « Furrier.org - Business & Technology Blog

  8. John Furrier says:

    Great post. I liked to it today on my blog furrier.org. Guest post by Andy Ridinger of Mural Consulting.

    http://furrier.org/2008/06/01/sales-20-social-media-support-is-the-new-marketing/

  9. Pingback: Mural Ventures Blog : Social Media has changed the world of selling online; have you noticed?

  10. Salma says:

    Yes, as the spokesperson for Bank of America says the people who left the comments on their sites are really its customers but there’s one catch. I think that it is more like this: the people who are satisfied with the bank, put their feedback on it’s website but those who aren’t they rather mention their complaints on other sites as anonymous. BTW have a look at http://www.bank-ratings.net to know more about ratings scales of banks.

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