by W H Inmon, Forest Rim Technology

The world of banking is competitive. Turn on TV and see how many banks advertise their services.

Drive in your town and on every other corner there is a bank. Turn on the Internet and see how many banks are represented there.

And once you have selected your bank, banks have many services that they offer – credit cards, checking, savings accounts, loans, home loans, and many more.

So how is it that banks compete for customers business? Certainly they have a variety of ways of competing for business. Banks compete on the Internet. Advertising is another way they compete. And having competitive rates for services is yet another way.

But perhaps the most time honored and most effective way to compete for customers business is through the practice of listening to the customer. By paying attention to the direct feedback from the customer the bank can form a very clear idea of what pleases and what does not please the customer. By listening to what the customer is saying, banks can build loyalty in the most fundamental way.


But there are challenges to hearing the voice of the customer.

The first challenge is in the media used to gather the customers comments. In the days prior to the Internet the media for gathering comments was a problem. But with the Internet, the customer has a media that is pervasive and readily available. Almost everybody has access to the Internet.

The second challenge in hearing the voice of the customer is in the fact that there are a LOT of customers. There is not a handful of customers. There are thousands and thousands of customers. There simply is no way that manually trying to listen to the customer is ever going to work. Because of the many customers, the computer is the most logical way to cope.

The third challenge is that the customer expresses himself/herself in language. The problem with language is that the computer does not deal with language very well. Computers like to see things nice and neat and structured. And language is anything but structured.

So even when the bank decides to listen to the voice of the customer, there are still plenty of practical challenges to accomplish the task.


In Spring of 2016 Forest Rim Technology gathered a large selection of banking customer feedback off the Internet, a publicly available source. The feedback that was chosen was for Bank of America, BB&T, Chase Bank and US Bank. These banks were chosen as representative banks for the banking industry. The dates for the feedback was from Feb 2016 to March 2015.

Typical of this publicly available data found on the Internet was –

Note that the comments are all in the form of text. Also note that the customer could talk about any subject he/she wanted to talk about. There were no constraints or guidelines on what the customer was saying.

The Processing

The processing that was done by Forest Rim is represented by the following architectural diagram –

The input to the processing was the text that was gathered from the Internet and taxonomies relevant to customer sentiment and banking. The output was a standard data base which was then read into visualization software.

The output was a dashboard that was used to reflect what banking customers were saying in a publicly available forum.

The dashboard (created by BoulderInsight)  looks like –

The dashboard shows the comments that related to the four banks that were selected. Throughout the analysis, the banks can be recognized by their color that represents them.

The comments are broken down hierarchically. The level 1 hierarchy shows the primary topics that customers talked about ranked by the number of times the customers referenced the topic.

If you wanted to narrow the discussion down to a given bank, you could do so. You could look at nothing but BB&T if you wanted. And you could look at comments that related to transactions conducted by BB&T –

In this diagram BB&T has been specified and comments about BB&T banking transactions have been specified. It is seen that the things that customers are most worried about on BB&T are overdrafts, payments and posting. The concerns of the customers are listed ranked by the number of occurrences.

Further drilldown is possible depending on subject you are interested in.

In fact you can drill down to the actual comment itself, showing where the origin of the analysis comes from.

There are many ways to look at data found in the study. One way is to look at all banks taken together. Another way is to look at one bank Another way is to select a topic and see what customers had to say about that one topic.

In short there are MANY ways the data can be examined.

The banking study is available for free. Contact Forest Rim Technology to get access to the study.

Another possibility is to have Forest Rim an analysis similar to this for your data. The difference is your data is private. The data will never leave the walls of your corporation

Forest Rim Technology was formed by Bill Inmon in order to provide technology to bridge the gap between structured and unstructured data. Forest Rim Technology is located in Castle Rock, Colorado.