Angry bank customers have found a new place to deposit their anger.
They are hitting the world wide web instead of their bank branch and are venting online about sloppy service and interest rate rises.
A new Nielsen Online study reveals social networking sites such as Twitter and MoneyConfessions.com.au are booming with people publicly expressing their displeasure.
The study measured consumer-generated media, or “buzz”, around the big four banks and found online discussion spiked following specific incidents related to banks.
The Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s (CBA) surprise interest rate rise of 0.1 of a percentage point to 5.74 per cent in June, and the story of a New Zealand couple who made off with $10 million that Westpac mistakenly deposited into their account sparked a frenzy.
Fifty-three per cent of negative comments about Westpac in May 2009 related to the New Zealand couple and included comments such as: “I’d love to see them get away with it.”
During April 2009, 12 per cent of online discussion about Westpac was negative compared with 34 per cent in May after the $10 million deposit drama.
Half of all comments about the CBA were negative after its rate hike.
Nielsen Online director of analytics Mark Higginson said the statistics showed people who were getting no satisfaction from traditional methods were going online to seek sympathy, support and a little revenge on the banks.
Because so many people were online, it was an easy way for them to ask each other about their banks’ performance.
“It’s not necessarily that people are going online specifically to talk about it, but it’s people who are already online. When the topic comes up, it’s like a match to tinder wood,” Mr Higginson said.
“The major spike has been in the past few weeks over the CBA rate rise.”
And although other banks were soon to follow the CBA rate rise, going by the data the Commonwealth took the flak for the hike, he said.
Most of the banks were aware of the online backlash, but Mr Higginson did not know if they were addressing the problems.
Media outlets are increasingly posting breaking news on Twitter and in the case of one journalist about shoddy customer service from the CBA.
A spokesman from the CBA said the bank has embraced the new communication channels and regularly monitors the threads that discuss them.
He said the journalist who “tweeted” about shoddy service was contacted by their customer service manager, when they saw the post, and was helped.
“We have rectified an issue from Twitter,” he said of the incident.
“We do have people who regularly log in to Twitter to keep abreast of the issues, which gives us a chance to interact with them, and we will always look at new ways of interacting with our customers.”
Mr Higginson said Facebook statistics were not available because it was a private closed community, whereas Twitter data was accessible.
“What you are seeing on the discussion forums is similar to what you are hearing down at the pub,” he said.
Other online discussion threads bagging banks include mortgage application processing delays as a glut of first home buyers applied for loans before a government subsidy was due to expire on June 30 and banking scam emails.
The National Australia Bank generated the highest percentage of positive online sentiment at 24 per cent.