@Ask_WellsFargo Hasn’t Asked

While browsing a site that provides tips on how to use social networking in business, I came across an interview of Kimarie Matthews, Wells Fargo’s VP for customer loyalty and social web programs, talking about the company’s use of Twitter to connect with its customers.

According to Matthews, WF uses social media to obtain “feedback from customers on how we’re running our business” and to offer assistance to customers. Great idea, right?

Interviewer: “What is the purpose of Twitter for Wells Fargo?”

Matthews: “Our purpose is primarily around customer support. We listened in Twitter to what customers were saying about Wells Fargo and we found that there were customers who were talking about their experience with the bank, for good or for bad, and … if we felt like we could add value, we reach out to them and we answer questions, we offer them help, we thank them if they say something nice about us.”

WF has two people working full-time during normal business hours monitoring the words “Wells Fargo” on Twitter and responding via the company’s @Ask_WellsFargo Twitter account. I follow that feed, but I’m not at my computer that much during the California-based team’s normal business hours, so I very seldom see any of these interactions.

Imagine my surprise to find out that Matthews and her team really do seem to interact with quite a number of customers, both the positive and the negative.

If a customer tweets about a good experience with a specific employee at a branch, Mathews said she and her staff will pass along the tweet to that employee. If a customer tweets about a broken ATM, they’ll contact the customer to let him know the appropriate branch has been informed so the machine can be fixed.

“And then we get customers that may have had a less-than-desirable experience and they may be expressing their feelings,” Matthews explained. “At that point we can reach out and say ‘I’m sorry you’re frustrated. Can we help?’”

Matthews comes across as positive and energetic – nice even – in the interview. And she talks a great line both there and in other places on the web. Rah, rah for building business by carefully creating strong customer relationships.

So, what am I? Chopped liver? I’ve been on Twitter more than a year now, quite often tweeting my displeasure with Wells Fargo by name. And nobody from Matthews’ team has “reached out” to me. Hmm. Does that mean I’m not considered a customer because my problem stems from a mortgage loan serviced by WF instead of a checking account? (But when I started tweeting about the bank, I did have a checking account there.)

Or is it that for those of us on the mortgage mod merry-go-round, WF has no desire to “add value?” Anyone who has dealt with Wells on mortgage mods and foreclosure issues probably doesn’t feel like a valued customer. I sure don’t. So, if we’re not customers, what are we? They’re making billions of dollars from originating and servicing our mortgage loans;  it seems reasonable to expect we should be extended the courtesy of being treated like valued customers.

Instead this taxpayer-bailed-out corporation seems to have constructed some other, less-desirable category for those of us who are struggling to make ends meet after the disastrous economic conditions of the past few years. (Now, what industry was it that tanked the economy? Oh yeah, financial services. Banks. Wall Street. Mortgage lenders.)

We’re the people it’s okay to lie to, blow off and generally jerk around because, for the time being, we’re stuck with WF because our houses’ values are under water and we can’t tell the big banks to take a hike and refi with a nice local bank or credit union that won’t treat us like crap.

In the interview, Matthews says the most rewarding interactions are those that allow her to “turn around” an angry client. She told the interviewer that changing a customer’s sentiment from negative to positive often just requires engaging with the customer who is angry and asking, “How can I help?”

“When they hear that we actually want to help them … we can turn it around and save that customer,” Matthews said.

Well, I’ve got some ideas how Wells Fargo can help me. Too bad nobody’s @Asking.

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