Word on the street is that Bank of America ($BAC) has already given payment deferments to 50,000 mortgage customers. This comes from a Congressional stimulus package that urged homeowners to request payment deferments from their lenders for both mortgages and credit cards.
But the bill didn't make clear who qualifies for a deferment, and banks like Bank of America have been stuck in the middle, scrambling to come up with a policy that is legal and fair. And despite posts to both Twitter and Facebook encouraging customers to fill out a form if they needed a pause in payments, Bank of America's social media team has had a tough week answering questions and quelling concern.
Since those posts, the bank's social media activity and followers have grown at a much higher rate than normal. Even Bank of America's Facebook page, which has seen a steady decline in followers for years, is bouncing back as customers hope for clarification on bank policies.
Much of the confusion — and social media activity — appears to be coming from the vague wording around not just who qualifies for a break from payments, but also what happens at the end of the deferment. In the case of Bank of America, things are being left unclear: mortgagees will owe payment in full at the end of the deferment, and those who cannot pay will need to contact the bank again to ask for any modifications.
Meanwhile, credit card customers who ask for a payment deferment will still be charged interest during the break. A post to the bank's Facebook page has nearly 800 reactions and more than 500 comments from customers doing everything from thanking the bank, to asking for clarification, to anger and confusion.
On the bright side, Bank of America appears to be taking a proactive approach on social media, answering questions where it can and directing people to a landing page that includes details and applications for deferment. Its policies and clarity, however, seem to be frustrating for some customers who are looking for answers.
Bank of America isn't alone in this — Chase ($JPM) has seen a similar uptick in Facebook activity beginning in mid-March when details of the stimulus package were first revealed.
Banks have increasingly turned to social media and digital platforms to reduce call-center volume and increase customer self-service. The current problems and swelling activity, however, are most likely linked to a lack of clarity in policies and how banks are interpreting the new rules.
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