By Francesca James

Nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) of the UK’s high street banks are responding to customers within an hour of receiving customer complaints and queries on Twitter, according to a study by Virgin Media Business. This comes after research which shows all of the UK’s leading high street banks are now using Twitter as a direct a line of communication with their customers.

NatWest had the fastest Twitter response times for dealing with customer queries with an average of just four minutes to initially respond to a customer on the social networking site. HSBC comes a distant second with an average time of 14 minutes. When it comes to number of followers, Co-operative Bank takes the lead with over 11,500 followers compared to RBS’ 1,500 followers.

“Social media helpdesks are becoming common in industries where businesses interact daily with customers. They’re becoming like virtual stores. It’s really encouraging to see the banking industry is taking a lead on this with every major high street bank using Twitter to engage with customers,” said Phil Stewart, director of customer services, Virgin Media Business. “On Facebook, banks have slightly more work to do. Our research found that just half of banks use their Facebook pages to speak to customers about personal issues.

“Social networking sites are a great way to engage with customers in real-time, but simply having a presence is not enough. Organisations need to make sure they’re interacting with individual customers and responding to queries within an appropriate time from when they first get in touch. The hours in which the account is monitored should be made clear to manage customer expectations on when they’ll receive a response. NatWest’s ability to respond quickly to customers on a personal level as well as interact with their followers on a broader level can help build loyal, long-lasting relationships. Great customer service on any platform should be the rule, not the exception.”