New research from a leading American consumer agency shows that Americans expect credit card issuers' social media servicing efforts to match or exceed their social media marketing programs. Researchers from J.D. Power and Associates surveyed 23,200 online consumers who have interacted with one or more social media teams from major corporations. The team's findings highlight opportunities for banks to strengthen their online customer engagement without putting consumers' personal information at risk.

According to company spokesperson Jacqueline Anderson, the study marks the first time a global information company has attempted to understand consumer perceptions of social media marketing and online servicing. The study defined "marketing engagements" as building brand awareness and promoting deals, while "servicing engagements" include interactions that solve problems or answer specific customer questions.

Survey respondents told researchers that American Express performed particularly well with marketing engagements, but the same issuer failed to make the short list of banks that achieved excellent in servicing engagements. Instead, four other banks earned the most kudos from their Twitter and Facebook followers:

  • Chase
  • Citi Cards
  • Discover
  • Wells Fargo

The divergent results underscore the challenges facing an industry that strives to improve cardholder service, yet often restricts social media activity because of customer privacy and regulatory concerns. Under federal and state laws, credit card marketing materials must contain disclosures of terms and conditions related to specific credit card offers.

Speaking under condition of anonymity, representatives from two major credit card issuers told CardRatings.com that they scaled back their social media marketing engagements due to the uncertainty about maintaining compliance with a complex set of rules and regulations. Instead of promoting specific products on its Facebook and Twitter feeds, American Express uses social media to hype cardmember-exclusive events and experiences. The company's Facebook page includes photo galleries from Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, NBA All Star Weekend, and the American Express Concert Series.

The four banks that earned top honors from J.D. Power's panel use their social media feeds to refer customers to secure communication channels, reminding cardholders to refrain from sharing personally identifiable information on public channels. In a statement to reporters, Anderson said that the banks with the strongest online reputations avoid responding to a service request by "pushing discount coupons out to them."