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Why Bad Online Reviews Are Good For Your Bank

Many financial institutions dread bad online reviews. But here's why you should view negative feedback as golden opportunities.

Getting a bad online review can be a big nightmare for banks and credit unions. As awful as that may seem, nothing could be worse than having a disgruntled consumer who is unhappy with your service… and you never know the reason.

No financial institution is ever going to be perfect, and you can’t make every consumer happy. But negative reviews on sites like can teach banking executives a lot, and help the bank improve its overall experience for consumers.

When people search for a bank or credit union, an absence of bad reviews can cause some skeptical consumers to raise an eyebrow — “Why are all these reviews I’m seeing so positive? Are they fake?” Nowadays, consumers are jaded and might feel that too much of a good thing can’t really be all that good. Consumers tend to weigh reviews gushing about “awesome service” less seriously than those that offer a well-rounded view of what they might expect — both the good and the bad. Consumers aren’t stupid; they can often sniff out reviews that have been fabricated, and if something doesn’t pass the sniff test, they may categorically dismiss all reviews.

No one ever expects to see a 100% satisfaction rating. Everyone understands that sometimes things can just go wrong. No matter who you hire, how strict you abide by policies, or how well you train your employees, a ball will get dropped occasionally.

Unhappy consumers will often go home and talk about their experience with family and friends. But consumers feel increasingly inclined to recap their ordeal and share their opinions in social channels. Conservative, traditional institutions that aren’t comfortable with social media may find negative reviews threatening.

Reality Check: The only “bad review” is one that goes unanswered by the financial institution.

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Social media can help improve customer service experience and potentially turn bad reviews into good ones. Having a strategic social media plan in place can help banks and credit unions use negative reviews as a learning experience as well as a way to potentially fix the problem that caused the complaint in the first place.

Here’s why your institution should view negative reviews in a positive light:

  1. Acknowledging problems lets consumers know that you care. Half the time, someone who is complaining just wants to be heard and feel like their complaint is being listened to. While you may not have an immediate fix for the problem, reaching out via social media lets them know that you are working on it and want to help them. It personalizes their interaction with you as a business and helps legitimize their concerns.
  2. Bad reviews and negative feedback help you with troubleshooting. You can’t fix problems that you don’t know about. For instance, perhaps your mobile banking site or online banking goes down. You might not know about this when it first happens, but you can be 100% sure that someone on Twitter will be complaining about it. In this case, you can let people know you are aware of the problem and working to fix it. You could then send out a tweet when everything is back up and running, thanking your customers for their help. They’ll feel part of the team and that interacting with you actually helped them.
  3. It creates opportunities to educate. With so many people complaining about different things, you can provide resources to help them solve their problems. While they are waiting for an official representative from the bank to help them, you may be able to suggest some possible solutions that can help them in the interim. Perhaps many people are complaining about the same thing. You could release a post that allows them to solve their issue. This way, they don’t have to visit one of your branches — voila, you’ve fixed their problem. Convenience is key to consumers, and being able to get an effective answer to something that isn’t working without having to go anywhere is fantastic.
  4. It will build relationships. If somebody complains about something and you go out of your way to fix this issue through social media, a bond will form. If they have a follow-up question or need additional help, they will know they can turn to this channel to get answers. It will foster a bond that makes them want to use your bank over others.
  5. Fix a complaint and it will prevent other bad reviews. It will have a domino effect. While a few bad reviews aren’t bad, having a bunch is definitely not good. If you are able to use social media to your advantage, that one bad review could turn it into a much larger group of positive reviews.

Showing a silver lining in a bad situation shows you care about your customers and establishes trust. People understand that not everyone is perfect, but if you tell a story about how you worked to fix something, they’ll be pleased.

John SiracusaJohn Siracusa is the president and CEO of mOSa Marketing, He helps banks build highly effective social media programs. A popular industry speaker, he helps banks not only connect with customers, but also with their community at large. You can follow him on Twitter @johnsiracusa

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The Financial Brand Forum 2017 | May 17-19 | Las Vegas


  1. Great article, John. Working directly with many brands who are learning to view negative feedback in a more positive light, I relish seeing more content online that helps brands understand the positive impact this kind of feedback can have – especially when it comes to more emotionally charged investments like placing trust in a financial institution. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Danica,

    It’s my pleasure. Nothing is better than genuine. 🙂


  3. This is my new favorite TFB article. I already send all Yelp reviews to our branch managers, and will be including a link to this article whenever there is a bad one. For conversation’s sake, I’d push back slightly on the statement that the only bad review is an unanswered one. A Yelp page full of 1 star reviews, even with responses from the organization, will probably not be clicked when appearing on the same page as other, higher rated organizations. Plus, when Yelp listings show up in a Google search, there is always a star rating next to them.

    I think a 5 star page looks fake, a 1-3 star page doesn’t warrant a click, and 3.5 – 4.5 stars is the sweet spot. Thoughts on this?

  4. Brad, I think you are generally right about the ideal target range for star ratings. However, I saw an app in Apple’s App Store the other day that had a 5-star average with 1,500 ratings. That seemed pretty credible. So I’d suggest that there’s a correlation between the volume of ratings and the average of those ratings. This involves elements of “standard deviation” (a core component of statistical analysis).

  5. John Siracusa says:

    I agree. There is definitely a correlation between volume and average of those ratings. 2.5 out of 5 with 1,500 reviews is not that good since generally that means a particular bank has a lot of issues that affect the customer experience in a negative way. So all negative experiences should be addressed and fixed so that average review trends start to trend up, rather than down. App store ratings typically show for the current version of an app, rather than all versions, where as a Yelp rating for a bank doesn’t change. Unfortunately, a bank can’t hit the reset button of ratings by creating a new version, so banks will have to use rating feedback as a way to improve the customer experience so that positive reviews start trending up, rather than down.

  6. Great post – we currently send all reviews to the appropriate person within our institution, as well, and try to position those we can respond to as an opportunity for improvement (Facebook reviews, Foursquare, etc.). Question: Yelp mandates your company profile have a picture of a person in it in order to respond to reviewers. That really puts a larger institution or company in a hard place, as they aren’t set up like a smaller shop where the person handling reviews is a face for the company. How do larger companies or FIs work within these limitations while ensuring the reviews are not left without a response?

  7. Nikki,

    I was pondering your question, because it is a good question on many levels. I went so far as to contact Yelp! to discuss a solution.

    But, one thing kept resonating in my mind. Why aren’t larger FIs and companies set up for these types of scenarios as you state?

    At the end of the day, isn’t social media about people? What does it really take to put the proper social media policy in place so that a marketing coordinator has the ability to respond to reviews while employed by a particular brand, be it FI or not?

    I think the big question is. How does a company put a strategy in place that allows it to be humanistic and not a logo, while remaining compliant and grow it’s branding and opportunities at the same time?

    Your thoughts?

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