SA banks fail to deliver customer satisfaction on social media

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 30 Nov 2021

South African banks’ customer service on social media platforms leaves much to be desired, with the majority of queries going days without a response.

This is one of the key findings of BrandsEye’s 2021 South African Banking Sentiment Index, based on the insights company’s analysis of the banks’ social media customer queries over the past year.

Having tracked social media posts about Absa, Capitec, First National Bank (FNB), Nedbank, Standard Bank, African Bank, Discovery Bank and TymeBank, the research found that overall, the banking industry still experienced more negative conversations on social media than positive.

As people settled into their new socially-distanced normal, the reliance on digital customer service channels continued to grow, with social media platforms fast becoming a preferred service channel for many bank clients, it notes.

In its sixth year of producing the index, BrandsEye collected over 2.7 million consumer social media posts about South African banks from 1 September 2020 to 31 August 2021.

The research firm’s proprietary crowd of human verifiers analysed some 500 000 of these posts for sentiment and conversation themes, including the treating customers fairly (TCF) outcomes prescribed by the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA).

Scrambling to win trust

According to BrandsEye, banking customers posted an estimated 188 649 priority Twitter posts over the last year. This represents 28% growth in service conversations – 38% when including risk mentions – and this speaks to an increasing demand for social media customer service across the industry.

BrandsEye business development director Lyndsey Duff points out that considering many (57%) of these mentions went unanswered, South African banks still have a long way to go in meeting customers’ growing social media service demands.

“Banks have yet to effectively handle the growing volume of service requests on social media. Service-related conversation first spiked in 2020 as a result of COVID-19, but continued to increase throughout 2021,”comments Duff.

In addition to exposing banks to unnecessary reputational risk, failure to swiftly identify and respond to service requests online also poses major regulatory risk, explains Duff.

“When mapping the social media conversation according to the six TCF outcomes prescribed by the FSCA, we discovered that 50.1% of sentiment-bearing conversation contained a conduct oversight theme.

“With the Conduct Standard for Banks having come into full effect from July of this year, South African banks are required to enforce the TCF principles across multiple areas of market conduct, or risk facing hefty fines.”

Falling from grace

In terms of individual performance, Absa saw the greatest improvement in overall public net sentiment (0.2%) this year, having climbed the ranks operationally and reputation-wise to take first place in the index.

Despite an increase in net sentiment of 1.3 percentage points, FNB still found itself with the lowest net sentiment across the board at -18.4%, while Discovery logged an 11 percentage point increase in public netsentiment compared to its 2020 figure, to come in at -11.4% net sentiment overall.

In terms of reputational sentiment, TymeBank scored the most positively by a large margin. The digital-only bank leveraged social media influencers as brand ambassadors to drive positive content, boosting reputational sentiment by 3.8 percentage points and securing third place overall in the 2021 index rankings.

The biggest improvement in terms of size, however, was Discovery Bank’s operational improvement of 23.9 percentage points, which saw it move up from eighth last year to sixth this year.

Meanwhile, Standard Bank saw only a 1.4 percentage point decline in public net sentiment but was overtaken by competitors Absa, Nedbank and Discovery Bank as a result.

Coming in at fourth place is Nedbank, which showed a 9.9 percentage point improvement in overall net sentiment, but only advancing by one place, compared to last year’s results.

Capitec saw a major drop in operational sentiment of 18.6 percentage points from 2020. From scoring a negative net sentiment for the first time last year, Capitec surpassed a new benchmark this year, scoring lower than the industry average for the first time.

African Bank, a long-established bank in comparison to the new entrants, experienced stable sentiment scores in 2019 and 2020, but a decline in net sentiment in 2021. This resulted in African Bank experiencing the greatest drop in rankings this year, losing four places in reputational net sentiment, to sixth.