Sentiment of the Week: Frustration with the Banking Industry

By: Dheepan Ramanan

March 26, 2015

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In Ernst & Young’s most recent global banking survey, customer experience was found to be the most critical driver in increasing customer loyalty. The most loyal customers who are critical to expanding business with financial institutions possess the highest levels of trust with their service providers. “The way I am treated” drove customer trust, more than any other element of the customer journey, beating out fees, rates, locations, and convenience. Unfortunately, banking customers are more often left feeling frustrated rather than loyal.

For example, of the customers surveyed, 22% indicated they do not even see a difference between financial providers, and 17% only keep their current provider because it’s too difficult to switch to a different provider. Examining Facebook comments from 10 banks—5 US and 5 UK—similar trends and findings emerge. I used the Clarabridge sentiment score, a measure of positivity or negativity on an 11 point scale from -5 to +5, 0 being neutral to examine customer sentiment.


Overall customer sentiment for these large financial institutions is fairly similar. The range of overall sentiment for 9 of the brands is from -.2 to 0, with Citi bank possessing a higher .2 positive sentiment score. Compared to 175 other brands and customer sentiment on Facebook, these large banks fall close to average or slightly above. However, there are major differences between UK banks and American banks in terms of the customer conversation.


Customer service is the most common mentioned issue with customers in both countries, however online banking is far more commonly mentioned by UK customers. In fact, a customer in the UK is 61% more likely to mention online banking than their American counterpart.   Online banking is of particular importance as EY Found that mobile banking overall is a weakness for traditional banks. Correspondingly, UK customers were 61% more likely to discuss mobile banking and did so overall with a negative sentiment. UK customers are also more likely to mention branch employees, and the sentiment is slightly more negative.

Areas for improvement

Ernst & Young made three high level recommendations for improving banking customer experience and reduce frustration: To make banking simple and clear, to give more and better advice, and to improve the problem resolution process.

Make Banking Simple & Clear:

Customers are overwhelmed by the constant stream of information about differing choices and changes to banking products. To combat this exasperating trend, banks need to be more clear and concise about changes to fees, rates, and services. Furthermore, as banks develop more services, particularly for burgeoning mobile services, they must invest in making the customer experience streamlined and user-friendly.

Overall in our dataset we saw several issues with mobile banking, the most prominent of which was login issues. Frequent updates to banking apps saw users unable to login leading to negative sentiment. This lack of stability created further distrust with banks as several customers mentioned being discouraged from using virtual wallet services that hinge on quality mobile apps.

Example comments:

“We both know your mobile app works sporadically at best so I can not use your virtual wallet.”

“For some reason, I can no longer log on to CapOne using the same EXACT user name and password on my iPad as on my desktop.”

“Excessive, unnecessary online security questions delay and frustrate ordinary users trying to access their bank details.”

This improvement in omni-channel experience is particularly important as mobile banking becomes more important to customers.


Since last April there is a tremendous increase in mobile banking and correspondingly login issues. This increase is roughly correlated with the Iphone6 launch, as the comments in this area rose 168% since September.

Provide More & Better Advice:

Advisory services are in high demand, and customers are far more likely to grow their business with a provider who provides advice. 70% of customers mention that if advisory services improved, they would expand business. In our data set, of the elements of employee experience, employee knowledge is the worst scoring by sentiment. Customers mention additional training frequently, with the word coming up in 20% of employee knowledge comments. It is clear that customers feel that their questions are not being met with the level of attention and knowledge that they expect. Correspondingly, positive comments have associations with increased customer loyalty.

Example comments:

“From when have your advisors been trained to operate on the basis of assumption and not actual investigation of facts??!?!”

“You would think that after 250 years in business your staff would be adequately trained!!!”

Please train your staff properly and give them the tools to do their job.

“I have to tell you if you continue to hire and train personnel as you have with Kelly I will remain a loyal customer for a very long time.”

Be Proactive in Anticipating and Solving Problems:

Problems are inevitable in the bank-customer relationship; however problem resolution is a critical juncture for customer loyalty. Customers who reported high satisfaction with problem resolution were highly likely to give all of their business to an institution (58%). The exact opposite occurred with customers who were dissatisfied. 32% of customers who were very dissatisfied with problem resolution reported closing services.

When speaking about issue resolution, customers were more frustrated by the speed at which their claims were handled than the quality or resolution of their issue. Issue resolution was extremely polarizing, although comments were overall negative, only 13% of total comments were neutral. In comparison, 55% of all comments related to banks fell into neutral sentiment. Positive comments were associated with very high sentiment and more mentions of customer loyalty. This was especially true when issues were resolved proactively.

Example Comments:

Not only did they help with my request in regards to my account but they also helped me resolve an issue with my Halifax credit card – after Halifax had offered me no assistance at all!!

I am really happy with RBS and have never had an issue that has not been resolved.

Am I going to get an answer to my non confidential questions Zack or are you unable to answer and do your job due to Barclays not training properly and not giving their workers the knowledge they need to help answer simple questions about the laws of the bank?

Can someone please explain why my 64 year old deaf Mum is still waiting for a new bank card despite her last one expiring in November?


Although providing a high-quality customer experience is critical to improving the bottom line, my analysis shows that financial providers have much room to improve in reducing customer frustration and earning both their trust and their continuing business.


Dheepan Ramanan is a data scientist at Clarabridge. Follow him on Twitter @DheepanRamanan.