Is RB Jacobs, the FNB Guy, a ‘twitterbot’ or the real thing?

South Africa’s First National Bank (FNB) have been leading the way in using technology as part of their brand and customer service, with one such example the “personification” of the FNB brand through the Twitter account @RBJacobs The FNB Guy.

The FNB Guy has been lauded as a great use of Twitter for customer service as he responds to customers’ requests quickly and with useful information, but is @RBJacobs real or is he a “bot”?

A few of his tweets suggest at most times the FNB Guy is just an automated script that has standard answers to some keywords picked up in tweets mentioning FNB. It could also be that at times the @RBJacobs Twitter account is rotated between a group of people who answer customer queries in a more detailed manner.

Human communication, just like computers communicating with each other, follows a specific protocol. For instance context is important in responding to someone communicating with you, you can’t just blurt out an irrelevant answer when asked about a specific subject.

It is context that suggests that The FNB Guy is at most times automated. Take for instance the following Twitter conversations:

First example

A conversation on Twitter earlier today where a Twitter user expresses disappointment about FNB. The said user only mentions FNB and doesn’t mention @RBJacobs, saying “@avivatalyah: Been banking with FNB for about 7 years now. Pity after such a winning streak to be so disappointed. #badcommunication”

The FNB Guy responds “@Rbjacobs:@avivatalyah Hi Aviva, sorry to hear this, is there anything I can help you with? RB”. Which at this stage of the conversation is appropriate. But also note, this seems to be the standard response to all tweets where FNB is mentioned without any specific issue being raised.

The user elaborates on their problem “@avivatalyah: @Rbjacobs Wanted to know if Qatari Riyal bought. Floor staff didn’t know, had to wait in queue 45mins for short “no” answer from exchange”. Now at this stage, a human would offer specific advice or help, but the FNB Guy responds with a standard response, which it does to most enquiries if you observe his Twitter timeline.

“@Rbjacobs: @avivatalyah Sorry again. Pls email [email protected] with your ID, contacts and details of issue so I can look into it. RB”

Second example

On Friday, I mentioned “FNB” on Twitter, quoting from the KPMG report South Africa’s Mail and Guardian had published on their website regarding the financial affairs of President Jacob Zuma.

My Tweet reads “@TefoMohapi:‘January 25 2003 The first debit order to service the FNB bond is debited against Reddy’s account for an amount of R12 117;’ “

To my surprise, the FNB Guy responds with a tweet saying “ @Rbjacobs: @TefoMohapi I hope all is well there, give me a shout if you need help. RB”

Which is an odd response considering the tweet only mentioned “FNB” and “bond”, but did not request any assistance. I highlighted this to @RBJacobs to which I assume a human took over the Twitter account in realisation of the mistake and responded “@Rbjacobs:
@TefoMohapi Ok O_o unfortunately I’m not able to comment on that. RB”

Good use of Twitter

Whether The FNB Guy is a bot or not is immaterial because the bank has demonstrated that by personifying a brand, putting a “human” face to it goes a long way in improving customer satisfaction.

Couple this with RB’s speedy responses to any query posed to “him”, then you’ll understand why FNB continues to win new customers and awards such as being the world’s most innovative bank.

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