News Column

Chase, Twitter, Social Media Blend to Trend

Dec. 23 2012

Mark Williams

chase

Amid the chatter of JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s operations in Westerville, where employees wearing headsets take calls about the bank's credit cards, sits a small group of workers using a new social-media strategy to reach customers.

The group, formed this year, serves as Chase's hub to support the bank's customer-service operations on Twitter. To the members, social-media work is an extension of the more-traditional ways of dealing with customers in bank branches or on the phone -- just one that comes with a limit of 140 characters on Twitter.

"It's an opportunity to show we're listening to their feedback," said Bianca Buckridee, social-media operations manager for Chase's card services.

Like a rapidly growing number of other businesses, Chase's customer-service group has turned to Twitter to boost the bank's brand and provide another platform for customers who have questions or problems or are angry with the bank.

The big difference between social media and more traditional customer-service operations: Left unchecked or handled inappropriately, the complaint of an unhappy customer using Twitter can cause damage more quickly and more extensively than an angry customer who slams the phone down or complains to friends.

Conversely, a business with a strong Twitter presence can turn a negative experience for a customer into a positive one. It can be used to apologize for problems, offer deals and promote events. "It's about finding what works for customers," said Taylor Gaspar, who works on Huntington Banc-shares ' social-media effort.

Chris Martin, spokesman for American Honda Motor, said the company uses Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and other social media to help customers and promote the automaker at the same time.

"Twitter has grown as a medium to socialize and engage with customers," he said. "We saw it as an opportunity and as a way to be of value to customers."

Chase's customer-service operations for Twitter in Westerville are just one part of the bank's total social-media effort. The company has Facebook pages that promote credit cards and its community giving program, it has its own YouTube channel that features Chase commercials, and other Twitter handles promote the brand.

"Customers expect their voice to be heard," said Bob Hale, senior partner with Primal Growth, a local company that helps retailers develop growth strategies. "It's another way to create a conversation with clients and with prospects."

Social media allow for a more-targeted message to customers, Hale said.

"That type of communication allows more and more individuals to follow that brand," he said.

A typical morning for the Chase Twitter staff at the bank's sprawling customer-service operations in Westerville starts with a tweet like this:

"How did The Bangles know that it would be 'Just Another Manic Monday'? Did they have Twitter? We are here until 9PM ET to assist you."

On a typical day, the staff of 10, recruited from various Chase consumer operations, fields a broad range of queries and complaints about accounts and the bank at@chasesupport.

Sometimes the questions are simple enough to be answered in the 140-character format. Other times, the bank will ask for more information or ask the customer to call a customer-service representative.

The group, like other companies, also searches Twitter to see what people are saying about the bank and, at times, engages them, including those whose tweets are nothing more than a 140-character, expletive-filled rant about something they say Chase has done to them or their account.

"They're often surprised when we reach out to them," said Buckridee, who was recruited from SunTrust Bank after she started similar operations there.

Hale said monitoring Twitter can be helpful for companies.

"Brands that engage and have positive engagements with individuals tend to be better," he said.

Marti Post, associate director of community management for Resource, a local online-marketing firm, likes that Chase identifies its Twitter staff and that staff members put their initials on their tweets.

She also likes that Chase separates customer-service Twitter operations from those that promote the brand, but she recognizes that some businesses aren't big enough to do that.

Even though the unit has been operating for just a few months, customers notice what Chase is doing, Buckridee said. "Awareness is really picking up speed," she said.

People using Twitter are "pretty savvy," Post said.

Companies using Twitter "gain a brand reputation," she said.

"They are being received as a brand listening in a timely, relative space and taking action and answering questions and helping people."

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Distributed by MCT Information Services


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Source: (c) 2012 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)


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