Bank of America on damage control or are they?

It has definitely been a year of announcements coming from America’s biggest bank, Bank of America. Two announcements in particular seem to stand out to me as I reflect on what I like to call “The Year of Bank of America”. Drum roll please…

Number One: Bank of America announced in early September that they plan to cut 30,000 jobs or 10 percent of their workforce to save 5 billion dollars per year by the end of 2013. Number Two: Bank of America announced in late September that they plan to charge customers 5 dollars a month for debit card usage.

Are you outraged yet? No wonder why the Occupy Wall Street protests have become a huge hit even among some celebrities. This is getting pretty ridiculous. Why were the banks bailed out if their employees or customers aren’t benefiting from those funds? Those are all questions I’m sure the banks can answer in some eloquent verbiage that even the highest educated people won’t understand.

What is even more irritating is that there seems to be no response from Bank of America to the public’s outcry of the job cuts and the hike of debit charges. What happened to the two-way communication PR folks are supposed to have with the community?

I have a checking and savings account with Bank of America and I remember tweeting about their “Keep the Change” program  and how I liked it and got an immediate response from their PR people. Not too far down the line, I tweeted to them about my disapproval of the new debit charges and got ZERO response. Why are they so quiet?

In my quest to find a video, ad, response or statement from Bank of America I have yet to do so. Is it really a good tactic on the part of a PR department to stay silent when the company is receiving so much bad press? The Press Room at Bank of America is not addressing any of the current digs taken at the company.

What I have noticed is that there was one new ad that I saw on television but was not able to find it anywhere online. The ad focused on how many and how convenient the Bank of America ATM’s are. Maybe the convenient ATM makes up for the lost of jobs and 5 bucks every month.

Hopefully Bank of America will learn from the Netflix backlash and start making smart and quick decisions. I’m actually contemplating on closing my accounts. As for damage control, Bank of America has yet to start that process… at least publicly anyway.

-Orlando P. Bailey

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33 thoughts on “Bank of America on damage control or are they?

  1. I’m glad you tackled this topic, and actually, I have an interesting tidbit to tack on! And it’s a Fox News poll where the answers are hilariously worded to stir up folks. The link was filtering around Tumblr the other day or so with outrage and an initiative to support the Occupy Wall Street initiative and such.

    But anyway, I’m not sure how closely this ties in to the big bank bailout hooplah of earlier; that was linked to AIG and all the toxic loans BoA and other American banks had that weren’t getting backed up by cash…I don’t know if the practice of giving those loans is done with, but considering the massive public outcry, I would assume so. I would love to think the bailout funds went to covering much and more of those awful loans the banks were passing out like Skittles, but I’m speaking very much from ignorance.

    As for the zero response to complaints…I’ve found most companies are fair weather networkers with their public, at least in regards to turnover time and response rates. Save for perhaps some copy-and-paste responses to complaints, businesses I follow on FB and Twitter remain tight-lipped about problems until it becomes an issue of saving face on a massive scale. It’s way more than likely BoA’s received more complaints than they can feasibly reply to if they wished, and are probably scrambling to make an effort for the cleanest, best way to explain its situation and bare itself in as favorable a light as possible. Not an easy thing in light of the recent past.

    But silence is, as they say, deafening. It can only harm BoA the longer it persists, and I do believe it knows this and is scrambling. With the hounding from media and the social sector, BoA has next to no choice but to make a statement; the when and how is all just guesswork until then.

    • Hey Laura, I was thinking the same thing about the poll but hey its a Fox News. I’m not surprised at all. You have actually jogged my memory a little bit about when the banks were bailed out. I remember it being called the Mortgage Crisis back then actually so you may be right about the bulk of the bail out being for home loans. I can understand the bank scrambling to clean up their mess successfully but it might too late. I do agree that the longer they are silent, the more they will lose customers. I being one of them.

      • Laura makes some truly relevant points here. Silence in a crisis is one of the biggest mistakes a company can make. I guess, first we must agree that is a crisis of sorts – so then what does that mean for them generally? Gina

  2. The whole “convenient ATMs” argument is a bit ludicrous, seeing as I’ve never come across an INconvenient ATM…isn’t that the whole point of them? This is hardly a redemption for the job cuts and debit charges that Bank of America has decided to go ahead with. I’m pretty happy that you did a blog on this, because now I know to never get a bank account with them.

    As far as their PR goes, apparently they think if they keep quiet no one’s going to notice or care. I think they’ll pay for it in loss of clients; if they offer no benefits or explanations, who knows what else they may take away? Unlike the case of Charlie Sheen, silence is not the best policy with this issue. They should have thought of a campaign that would encourage clients to maintain their bank account despite these changes, or even explain WHY they want to save 5 billion dollars (besides giving their CEOs even more money in their pockets…)

    -Silvana

    • You took the words right out of my mouth. I was recently having a conversation with my mother and she was saying that the bank CEOs and “Higher Ups” are still filling their pockets. A pretty sad reality if you ask me. Apparently the “Higher Ups” think that its wise to be silent for a lengthy period of time on these issues. You’re right they better start making people see benefits that make customers want to stay with them fast or it may be to their detriment. We shall see! I’m glad to read your comment.

      -Orlando P. Bailey

  3. It’s clearly no coincidence that banks are all about money. As redundant as the statement seems, it’s absolutely true.

    A. They cut jobs (personal income) in order to save the company more money.
    B. They charge you up the [whoa!] in order to make the company more money.
    C. They offer lower or less benefits to their customers in order to save the company money.
    D. They SUCK!

    Okay, so the last one is a little personal, but you get my point. A loyal customer now loses any special benefits they may have gotten before and all the tellers can say is “I’m sorry, it’s a change in policy….[awkward pause while you stare maliciously]…BUT WE DO OFFER THIS NOW!”. Most days I wish that a savings account was literally a piggy bank and frozen assets are when you roll up all your cash and stick it in the freezer until you need it decades from now.

    I agree with Silvana, too.

    -Dan W.

    • Dan I have to say that piggy banks worked for someone in my family. I had Great Grandmother who never put anything in the bank. She was a smart and stubborn woman stuck in her ways. Your anger is understood especially since Bank of America has done nothing to undercut it. Maybe issuing a statement would be nice. If they care enough.

      -Orlando P. Bailey

    • Is there a difference between banks like Bank of America and banks who promote “members” taking part in the whole mission. For example – credit unions.

      A credit union is a cooperative financial institution that is owned and controlled by its members and operated for the purpose of promoting thrift, providing credit at competitive rates, and providing other financial services to its members.Many credit unions exist to further community development or sustainable international development on a local level.

      DFCU: https://www.dfcufinancial.com/channelPage.aspx?tid=147

      Gina

  4. Thank you for writing about this. Though, I must say, I’m literally not surprised by anything BoA does anymore. I had an account with them from 2000-2010, and it was a decade of convenience followed by disappointments. I feel like it’s important to start with the perks lest I forget about them in the ensuing rant. First, they are, in fact, a bank established around the modern mobile American. There are ATMs everywhere, even abroad. Second, I agree with you, the Keep the Change program was certainly a highlight. It made me feel like I was contributing to my savings account more often, because I watched it grow, particularly with BoA matched my savings.

    Now, there’s the bad. They continue to make decisions that, as you mentioned in your comment, not only discourage the customer but fail to take it’s own long-term interest into account. When a bank can behave in it’s own disinterest and still make a profit, it defies the laws of capitalism. Next, although you can find a BoA, even abroad, they have failed to make it convenient to use their debit/credit cards out of the country. I had my account set up specifically with the understanding that I traveled, a lot! And yet, every time I travel my card is flagged for potential fraud and subsequently locked until I communicate with a representative over the phone. You try to Skype BoA from a hostel with a shoddy internet connection and a 12-15 hour time difference on your vacation. It’s infuriating and unnecessary.

    I’ll admit, I had originally planned to add more to this rant, but I haven’t any more fuel to burn. It’s been a year since I’ve closed my account in favor of banking with a small regional bank, and I’m happier for the change, indeed. I only hope that others will make the same kinds of decisions with their purchasing power.

  5. It’s so funny when I hear people who are not PR practitioners (The Public) or at least for now, non PR majors, blame the PR people for this and that. As if the PR people are the ones who make the decisions for companies, as if the PR people are the ones who are running those companies, the ones who have the spending power in their hands, and the ones who originally made the mistake. The PR department (if the company has one) does not make any decisions without approval from higher managers. They don’t just go and say, oh, that’s bad, let’s call a press conference and talk to the public. obviously they don’t. They take orders from the company’s executives just like any other department. Whether they want to fix something or not, they can’t do it without approval from the big guys in the company. If the company does not have a PR dept., I don’t think they can do a lot here either until they are asked to.

    In the mean time, Orlando my friend, I would definitely close my account with Bank of America. This is ridiculous, I read about this the news and I am not even a BOA customer, and I was outraged. Banks are making billions of dollars out of those little fees that we as consumer think, ahhh, it’s ok, $1.29 a month is not a big deal for service fees, or $0.99 for ATM withdrawal is ok. But waht we don’t think about is that, it’s not only me who pays this little fee, there are millions other are paying the same fee every day or every month.

    Now that we gave them a hand, they want the whole arm. Let’s hope it won’t spread like a disease to other banks and let’s hope BOA will realize the big mistake they are doing, but most of all, let’s hope that all BOA customers will close their accounts so they can teach them a BIGGGGG lesson. I really still can’t believe they will really charge $5 and their customers will let them do that.

    -Midu

    • Midu I do not nor did I blame PR people for the lack of communication that the public has been getting from Bank of America. I am well aware that there is a process of proofing and approval from the folks in charge of a company that can ultimately tie the hands of the PR people. I do fault the company for saying absolutely nothing about this whole thing hoping that it will go away. The only thing going away are loyal Bank of America customers like me. I do agree with you Midu, WE the consumers have the power to teach BoA a BIGGGG lesson.

      -Orlando P. Bailey

  6. Orlando,
    While i agree with Midu, I also believe that the role of PR pros is to effectively handle a crisis in their company such as this one for BoA. I’m always the one in every single blog that stands up for PR, saying that they are one portion of the entire spectrum, and are generally looked at as the “care-givers” of their corporation- whenever the company gets a “boo-boo” , they have to be the ones that nurse the wound. With that said, I don’t believe that anyone was saying that you were eclusively targeting PR, but you did ask why they were not doing anything about the situation as far as response. In my personal opinion, i believe that they know well enough that to keep silent would futher more damage their rep; even though I really can’t say what their reason for staying quiet is, I highly doubt that one of them is lack of caring or feeling the need to explain. This is a serious issue- I agree with Laura, they are getting so much attention, so much pressure, so much demand to comment on, that they are really scrambling around. it’s a lot going on in those offices, much more than you or I (who don’t work there), would ever know. That still doesnt excuse their silence, and i don’t know if I would feel differently, being a customer with them either.
    Also, about switching over, the entire process is not that difficult. I swtiched from one bank to another very quickly due to a change in location and better offers at the new bank I was going to. However, just because I like my bank, doesn’t mean I give them total trust. i still have my own piggy bank stash :). Let’s be honest, what is happening at BoA could be happening at any bank- they just happen to be more fortunate.
    -Jaleesa

    • Jaleesa I agree with your point about the PR people caring. I do believe they care but I the directions from the “higher ups” trump any feelings. I understand them maybe not wanting to tarnish their rep any further but I think there needs to be something said. That’s so cool that you have your piggy bank stash. I do too. My great-grandmother used to call it “mad money” or “petty cash”.

      -Orlando

      • Of course. My mother always said you don’t trust anyone, besides God and my parents, as far as you can throw them, and that especially goes for banks. And mom didn’t raise a fool :).
        With your earlier comment, even though they are protrayed in a negative light, the “higher ups” can still have hearts too. We must remember our economic times (we are, and have been since 2008 or before even, in a recession), and this could have been any bank we are talking about. There were plenty of lay-offs in the height of it all, too; most of my family works for General Motors, and many of them were laid off because there had to be cuts. I’m not trying to come off as insensitive, because it was only grace that kept me from being in the unfortunate position, or my immediate family being in it, but it happens. I do not condone their handlings, but I just keep in mind that everyone, even millionaires are humans, and that some things are out of their control. They just are the face of disaster….perfect example, our President. We were headed for a recession BEFORE he came in office, and everyone seems to blame him for everything.
        -Jaleesa

  7. Orlando,

    Interesting topic, and good to know. I do not have a Bank of America account, but I know people who do, I wonder if they are aware of this. Personally, I do not like Bank of America. They have too many stipulations to having an account with them in my personal experience. My boyfriend has an account with them, and the type of account he has, he is only able to use the ATM, if he needs to go inside to get a statement or deposit money for example, from my understanding (and I was there when the account was opened) he is charged for all of that. I think it’s a bit ridiculous for a bank to charge their services no matter what type of account you have. But, all of that aside, I think I have to agree with you, silence is deafening. Usually I like silence is golden but it is definitely not golden for Bank of America users. I would really like to think that in their silence, maybe they are rethinking their five dollar charge a month deal, but I think that is probably naive of me. I just hope that other banks don’t follow suit. Their PR pros really should be more on top of this like you have said. They should be making a pro-active effort to calm their account users and explain to them in everyday language why this all occurring, otherwise, they might be out some accounts. Afterall, it is a choice for the public to bank with them, BoA needs to remember that.

    • Dayna you are absolutely right. It is a CHOICE. They have made ATMs much more easy to use and universal. You almost don’t have to go into the bank anymore. Although the service charge is something to consider. In addition to the $5 a month for debit fees, the consumer still has to pay a service charge every month. That is a bit much. Thanks for bringing that up.

      -Orlando

  8. As a Bank of America account holder, I was aware of their debit charges only recently because someone told me- not because I was notified by the bank as it should be. The silence from their PR responding to complaints isn’t surprising to me because they have always been lackluster in the customer service department in comparison to LaSalle Bank- the worst thing LaSalle ever did was sell to BOA.

    I personally think PR should respond to both positive and negative feedback, because it shows a care for both the company and its customers. The commercial that was mentioned above sounds like one way BOA tried to give an alternative for their new debit fees (I’ve never actually seen the commercial), since getting out cash instead would wave those fees. Except for one thing- you need a debit card to use an ATM!

    • WOW! I do remember when Bank of America was LaSalle Bank. That was a long time ago. I do agree with your point, positive and negative feedback is key. My twitter was flooded with BoA reps when I decided to tweet that I liked their “keep the change” program. But when I tweeted to them about the fees, no response at all. Its makes me angry because I question whether they think I’m important has one of their consumers. I’ve been loyal for 5 years. So for me, its a bit personal.

      -Orlando

  9. Orlando,

    I really enjoyed your blog. I first like how you addressed something PR practitioners aren’t doing for a change. Many of us addressed the positive things they’re doing or ways they have rose up from mistakes. However, I don’t think the PR people are all in the wrong here. The Bank of America is the one making the decisions and the PR reps are probably just following orders. It’s interesting that you’ve had first hand experience with social media and The Bank of America. I am surprised that they’re not responding to you, when social media has been such a popular way to reach out to the public. I have a feeling you are right about this tactic. Staying under the radar is probably their plan, until they can give a meaningful speech, full of excuses and promises. But does staying under the radar actually work? Or will it hurt their reputation more? I guess it all depends on the situation. You made another good point about Netflix, and how the original plan failed when they wanted to combine with Quickster and raise prices. The same thing could very well happen to The Bank of America. I will say these changes may not be all bad, if they can offer something new and different from other banks…

    ~Taylor 🙂

    • Taylor I do believe some type of contingency would satisfy customers. The question is, what is BoA willing to give? Not much if you ask me. Yes, Netflix is a prime example of how powerful the consumer is. I think BoA will realize that once people start going local in record numbers. I am going to start using my Michigan First account more. Way more benefits and ran by a board of my peers.

  10. i agree with Midu, I also believe that the role of PR pros is to effectively handle a crisis in their company such as this one for BoA.I personally think PR should respond to both positive and negative feedback, because it shows a care for both the company and its customers. However, Pr people play a dual role of being the good and bad guy so these issues that come about are apart of their job. i agree with the above comments that state: “I personally think PR should respond to both positive and negative feedback, because it shows a care for both the company and its customers.” it is true that silence is golden but in this case they need to bit the bullet and speak on these issues. with all these many changes going on with BoA i hope they soon change their name cause they are surely not the for “Americans.” i am a credit union user so i have not experience with any other banks. we have our fees but they email mail us every month or send letter or call us when then are going to change in advanced. so i think if the lines of communication were better maybe this wouldn’t be such a headache.

    Dee

    • Dee thank you finally for responding. I agree with you. Communication is key. Its like looking at a cell phone bill and for some reason this month, your bill is extremely high because of some service or data charge, I believe that customers should not be informed of such charges on a monthly statement but like your credit union, an email or even a phone call would suffice.

      -Orlando

  11. Ironically, I have just become a new member of the Bank of America team. As a teller I am authorized to follow policy even though it seems a bit unfair to those that bank with us. As explained in the interviews meetings and trainings, corporate is trying to make changes to fix the issue and eventually they will give an explanation. I agree that the PR agents shouldn’t be so hush-hush but with the negative media attention they are trying to come up with different strategies that will benefit both them and consumers out there. The company is definitly going through a financial crisis and trying to find better ways to fix it. At least their trying to do something about it. I don’t disagree with none your comments, however I’m just letting you know as an employee, although I’m new, they are in the process of strategizing to please everyone and also save themselves.
    -Martise W

    • Thank you Martise for giving us some feedback from the inside. Thank you. Even a response like the one you’ve given would’ve cooled my grits. I understand BoA is working on it. But nothing? They have to do better. BoA not the PR department of course.

      -Orlando

  12. I think that Bank of America will respond; well, I hope they do. But I think that banks are just one of those things/companies that can do what they need to do and still remain stable. People will continue to have their bank of america accounts for the most part. Maybe they feel that they’ve done so much good stuff for their customers like the keep the change thing, and the different types of accounts they offer. It’s definitely not a good look to blatantly announce job cuts and things like that, but i think they will ultimately find a way out of the bad PR light.

    -Porsha

  13. Check Out this “Null Hypothesis!” Maybe No P-R is exactly the plan that will help this bank, small banks, and consumers.
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2011/10/16/new-bank-of-america-fees-good-for-consumers-and-small-banks/
    (An excerpt from E.D Cain’s article in Forbes that talks about an opposite theory of BoA’s fee’s)

    “But the migration to smaller institutions may be exactly the point. Many banks such as Bank of America have been classified as ‘too big to fail’ placing them within the protective cocoon of a future government bailout. Driving consumers into the arms of smaller banks and credit unions may be one way to shrink these massive financial institutions without having to resort to directly breaking them up. It may be good for consumers as well.”

    –Seems Pretty head to me! Maybe the whole idea of it all is to upset customers by giving them no response, weakening the consumer/brand relationship , causing a shrink in size thats FULL of BIG benefits!

  14. I’m really surprised that I have yet to hear about this. I’m really glad you tied in the netflix thing because when I was reading your blog that was exactly what I was thinking. When will these companies realize that we are the consumers and our opinion does matter a little bit? I am also a little shocked that they haven’t had a lot of PR work to make this look a little better on bank of americas behalf. With Netflix they at least tried to do something by change the name of the DVD service they offer and made a public statement about it but to do nothing just doesn’t seem right to me. When you are make a change where people have to pay more for anything you have to use PR and make it look like it is better for everyone.

    Ashley Counterman

    • Ashley,
      I do not think that you are the only one who was shocked.There is definitely something to be said and fast. I do not think that this company is too big to go down under. I am sure that the government will be less sympathetic this time around.

      -Orlando

  15. Never been a client of Bank of America but i have heard about this from some of my friends who bank with them. That was a bad PR tactic to remain silent because to some it implicates that they know what they are doing is wrong in the eye of the public. With all of the bad publicity they have been getting one would think that their PR person would make a statement to lighten the situations that present themselves. It seems that Bank of America tried to take too many routes at once. To demolish 30,000 jobs is a big enough issue at once, charging $5.00 for debit card use is addiong fuel to the flames, and being silent is burning the building down entirely. I wonder if they can dig themselves out of this.

  16. Its funny that you bring that up because I passed a Bank of America the other day and realized I never saw any advertisment for them. It seems to me as if the company has a big head, they already have the big name and millions of clients that have their accounts with them, can the really just fall to the ground? Its messed up how they just threw away all those job to collect they profit for themselves. I don’t think its really the PR people fault its the choices that are made by the people higher then them that really effect their their business, and in the end it is their loss. They are the ones not appricating their customers and probably losing more and more everyday. It may not effect them now but i think it will really hurt them in the long run because while they are charging people unnecessarly other banks like Chase and PNC reward their customers by giving them money back! But for the PR people just to sit back in my opinion is not the best idea, even though they are charging money to use their debit cards or laying people off, they could still stress the postives of their company!!
    -Rhonda Farah

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