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31.8.07

Facebook forces HSBC climb down

For a while now we have been advising clients about the power of Facebook and need to engage in conversations where their company is directly or even directly involved. Be Open, Be Honest is our motto.
So it was interesting to see that banking giant HSBC has been forced to back down on student overdraft fees after a campaign on Facebook orchestrated by the National Union of Students. More than 5,000 students got the bank to reverse its decision to stop free overdrafts for graduates after joining Facebook's Stop the Great HSBC Rip-Off!!! group.
The U-turn comes at a time of year when HSBC is trying to sign up potentially lucrative students. The bank said yesterday that it was not "too big" to listen to its customers – good on them.
According to a report in today’s Telegraphy Andy Ripley, HSBC's head of product development, said: "Like any service-orientated business we are not too big to listen to our customers. Following the feedback from our graduate account holders, both directly and via the National Union of Students [NUS], we have taken the decision to freeze interest charging on 2007 graduates' overdrafts up to £1,500 and refund any interest charged in August."
The NUS set up the protest site because it felt HSBC had reneged on the banking deal offered to students. It gave them accounts on the basis that they could have an interest-free overdraft of up to £1,500 for three years, reducing the facility by £500 a year.
But last month it informed customers that it would be charging this year's graduates for those overdrafts unless they paid a £9.95 monthly fee.
The move would have cost a graduate who had the maximum overdraft of £1,500 nearly £12 a month, or more than £142 a year.
Now according to a NUS statement on Facebook: “HSBC have contacted NUS to discuss this campaign. Following our discussions and negotiations, HSBC have decided to freeze interest on 2007 graduate overdrafts up to £1,500, with future policy subject to review. All those recent graduates who have been subject to additional interest charges this August will be eligible for a refund.
"Following this development, we will suspend the planned action on 4 September at HSBC HQ. We will send out a further communication later today."
The joint NUS/HSBC press release here.
"NUS would like to thank you all for your involvement in this campaign. The commitment, time and energy shown by the members of this group has precipitated real change. Despite all those who suggested that our concerns would not be listened to, our voice has been heard. HSBC have agreed to continue a dialogue with NUS, and we remain committed to expressing the concerns of students and graduates in our future correspondence.
“We recommend that all those HSBC customers who are affected get in touch with their local branches to discuss this matter in further detail.”
Who says social media doesn’t work? And who would still argue that companies should ignore it? Answers please.

1 comment:

Daljit B said...

The NUS campaign has highlighted the viral campaigning power of Facebook and as you say should act as both a warning and as an opportunity to other brands. What's baffling is the tiny number of companies who are actually tapping into Facebook to invite feedback from existing and potential customers on new products and proposals. The lessons of blogging apply equally to social networks and there remains the opportunity for PR agencies to work with clients to lead and shape this engagement.