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Attracting positive word of mouth online - are small banks leading the way in the financial sector?

London 08 June – Online market research specialist DigitalMR releases latest April figures from its monthly syndicated banking report, powered by SocialNuggets.

Banks often get a lot of negative coverage in the media, but what do their customers really think?
For the month of April 2011, DigitalMR’s report analyses comments posted via a range of relevant finance related websites and open access social media platforms. It measures, not only the number of comments posted by consumers on the internet, but also sentiment – whether their posts are positive or negative.
Results are based on comments posted by consumers on the major UK banks: Lloyds TSB, HSBC, Halifax, NatWest, Bank of Ireland, Santander, Barclays, RBS, ING Direct, and Clydesdale Bank.
The clear winners for April are Clydesdale and ING Direct with Net Sentiment Scores of 73% and 60% respectively (see below).

Clydesdale attracted over 6 times as many positive comments from customers as negative ones, while ING Direct was similarly well received, with around 4 times more positive posts than negative.

Managing Director of DigitalMR, Michalis Michael commented: “although banks often get a bad press, this report shows that certain banks, especially the smaller ones, are meeting the expectations of influential customers who post comments through social media. This is a great asset for organisations striving to generate positive PR on the internet, where news travels fast”.

1)    Net Sentiment Score (NSS)
Half of the banks measured, achieve a positive Net Sentiment Score (NSS) for April. NSS provides an overall percentage score of net positive posts. A positive score means a bank attracts more positive than negative posts, while a negative score suggests a higher proportion of negative posts. Clydesdale and ING Direct achieve the best NSS while at the other end of the scale HSBC scores lowest with a negative NSS of -42%. The average NSS taken across all banks measured is -7%, which is good news for the banking industry as it is now attracting nearly as much positive sentiment across the internet as it does negative.

Net Sentiment Score Ranking
1st Clydesdale Bank    73%
2nd ING Direct             60%
3rd Bank of Ireland       17%
4th Halifax                   9%
5th Santander              4%
6th RBS                     -11%
7th Barclays               -14%
8th Lloyds    TSB        -20%
9th NatWest               -21%
10th HSBC                 -42%


2)    Breakdown of positive and negative posts
Because the larger banks receive a lot more attention on the internet, they generate a large volume of both positive and negative comments from customers. As seen from the Net Sentiment Scores from the bottom five banks, the number of negative comments can often outweigh the positive ones.
For example, Lloyds TSB records an impressive 18% share of all positive mentions for the top 10 banks measured, but it also attracts more negative comments than any other bank – accounting for nearly a quarter (24%) of all negative posts in April. This yields an overall NSS of minus 20%.
Conversely Halifax attracts 21% of all positive comment, but only 15% of negative one yielding an overall NSS of plus 9%

Top 5 banks – Share of Positive Posts (among top 10 banks measured in April):
1st Halifax                 21%
2nd Lloyds TSB        18%
3rd Bank of Ireland    13%
4th Santander           10%
5th HSBC                 9%

Top 5 banks – Share of Negative Posts (among top 10 banks measured in April):
1st Lloyds TSB           24%
2nd HSBC                  19%
3rd Halifax                  15%
4th NatWest                9%
5th Bank of Ireland       8%


3)    Features and Services
DigitalMR measured thousands of customer posts across April regarding the services that banks offer. Services attracting a much higher proportion of negative comments to positive ones are worth highlighting for improvement.
Top 5 banking features and services and their share of positive mentions:
1st Online banking     16%
2nd Mortgage            16%
3rd Credit card           13%
4th Balance               12%
5th Loan                    11%
Top 5 banking features and services and their share of  negative mentions:
1st Customer Care     24%
2nd Loan                   17%
3rd Bank Employees  11%
4th Online banking      9%
5th Overdraft               9%
An area of clear concern for the banks is Customer Care. It accounts for nearly a quarter (24%) of all customers’ negative posts on services, but only 10% of positive ones. It suggests that Banks need to focus on improving their Customer Care to improve their sentiment scores in this area.
Online Banking and Mortgages are generally services that perform relatively well according to customers. When customers receive good service or like a particular feature they are happy to comment on it, as the following posts on some of the larger banks indicate:


4)    In their words – positive customer comments
Lloyds TSB

“I have never switched from Lloyds Bank for my current account for over 20 years. My main reason for this is that they have been incredibly easy to do business with. The Lloyds account was much more straightforward to use, for managing bank transfers, direct debits and standing orders. I very rarely need to go into a bank nowadays”.

“Lloyds as other banks have a wide range of account types available. The web site is very informative and has a lot of information on these, otherwise the staff in the branches are always happy to discus the options with you and are not pushy”.

Halifax Bank

“Halifax has an excellent current account for those of us who keep our accounts in credit. * £5 net per month (£6.25 before tax) paid to you, provided you pay £1k per month in. So on an average balance of £1k, this is 7.5% gross! * One of the best internet banking systems. Very simple and easy to use, but has a lot of useful features. * 24/7 telephone banking, and lots of branches. Good customer service.”

“Halifax is a really good bank, very helpful I think there is nothing at all wrong with Halifax. Overall I think it is such a helpful bank and may be in the top 5!!!!!”


“I have been banking with HSBC for over 20 yrs and have never had any problems. I have had mortgages, house insurance and credit cards with them. Customer service has always been extremely polite and helpful whenever I have needed their assistance”.

“I have just opened a business account with the HSBC and have to say that the service I have so far received was first class! I had previously made an enquiry with this branch and all of the questions I'd asked were answered and I was given all the information I needed to ensure that I had a good understanding of how a business account worked”.  

“RBS bank account itself is fairly good.  I got a decent interest rate, a good overdraft, decent student credit card and a number of good offers, such as £100 or a railcard on opening the account”.

“I have banked with RBS for nearly 30 years and have never felt the need to take my business elsewhere. (even in this current climate). The service I get from RBS telephone banking is second to none. They are polite, efficient and are able to deal with almost any queries I've had without the usual run around from other call centers”.

Positive: “NatWest bank has a very good customer service from what I have experienced and so easy to use and keep control of your account weather through mobile or internet and so helpful in store”.

“I have been with NatWest for at least 12 years now and have never had an issue with them. NatWest is one of the four main high street branches you will recognize in every major city and town. They offer all the usual banking products and services. I have always been happy with the customer service I have received throughout the years”.

5)    How can Banks use social media to their advantage?
Banks can use analysis of data from websites and other social media in the following ways:

  • Engage in a one-to-one dialogue with their customers and respond to negative comments
  • Invite some of the customers to join online forums and chat groups to further express their views
  • Positive sentiment can be leveraged in advertising
  • Operations can learn about and fix specific branch performance issues
  • Financial products can be adjusted, and new ones can be designed to meet customer needs

About the syndicated banking report
The monthly banking report monitors thousands of customers’ online conversations through comments posted on open-access social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, forums, blogs, microblogs and commercial websites, for UK banking services.
The report is available on annual subscription with updates provided on a quarterly, monthly or weekly basis. Results will be updated to the press on a monthly basis.


For regular reports and more information:
Michalis A. Michael,
tel: +44 751 571 0370

About DigitalMR
DigitalMR understands what people think and feel when they share views online. It is a specialist agency which provides a holistic approach to web based market research. It specialises in utilising social media research, especially active web-listening, and online communities to enhance its business consulting approach. The agency has pioneered new methods in online focus groups alongside tools such as video diaries, bulletin boards and online ethnography. DigitalMR is headed by founder and MD, Michalis Michael and has offices in London UK, Nicosia Cyprus, and Columbus Ohio, in the US.

About SocialNuggets
SocialNuggets technology delivers real-time market intelligence for fast moving industries by analyzing data from various social media sources with a mission to liberate social media data and sentiment analysis for use in real-time research of brands, products and features. SocialNuggets delivers ready to use market intelligence for various industry verticals including consumer electronics and banking. SocialNuggets data is delivered in bite size, ready-to-consume, infographics and is also available in the form of a full access to our data warehouse for analysis and integration with customers’ data. SocialNuggets, a Serendio company, was founded in 2011 with headquarters in Santa Clara, CA. For more information, please visit



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