The banking sector in South Africa is highly competitive. All major brands have comprehensive mobile banking offerings, attractive savings accounts, and innovative products with which to win demand deposits. Churn rates tend to be high, with banks making attractive offers to win customers over from rivals.

A major bank wanted to differentiate itself from the pack by putting a major focus on customer service. To avoid being seen as a commodity, this bank wanted to gain a reputation as being the only one in South Africa that really cares about its customers. The bank engaged Repustate to help it meet this challenge.

Gathering feedback

The first step was to gather as much feedback from existing and potential customers. A campaign was started using a hashtag on Twitter and Facebook to get people to say what they didn’t like about their current bank. Over a 90 day period, the bank gathered over two million pieces of text. Some short form, such as those on Twitter, and some longer as you’d expect on a Facebook comment.

Enter Repustate

Using Repustate’s custom categorization feature, categories were created with which to break up responses into semantically similar areas. For example, comments about mobile banking were put into one bucket, fees and charges another, branch banking another bucket and so on. In total, Repustate discovered 7 categories that were relevant.

Once the text was classified as belonging to one (or more) of the categories, sentiment was applied as well as keyword extraction to determine the true intent of the comment. This is best illustrated with an example:

“I really hate going to my branch during lunch time and seeing only 2 tellers with a huge lineup. Why do they go to lunch all at the same time?”

Repustate would have categorized this as belonging to the "Brach banking" category, and then applied sentiment. The raw sentiment score for this text would be < 0, indicating negative sentiment.


With the initial round of analysis complete, it was time to aggregate the results to see what Repustate’s text analytics uncovered.

Positive (%)
Negative (%)

The sentiment for each category was graphed as percentages e.g. of all the complaints about Mobile banking, 54% were negative, 46% were positive.

Taking a look at the graph, phone support, online banking (the bank’s website) and branch banks were the biggest sources of negative comments. Performing a keyword/key phrase analysis on the comments revealed some insight as well. As an example, here were the most common phrases under the "Branch" category:

  1. "long lineups"
  2. "always closed" (referring to the hours of operation)
  3. "no tellers"

With this phrase analysis combined with one simple chart made possible by Repustate’s text mining capabilities, the bank now knew exactly where to focus its efforts to become the bank known for its customer service. A major overhaul of the bank’s website was initiated to make it easier to understand one’s own products, obtain information about balances and payments and to get information about new products.

Branch banks were overhauled to ensure teller staff always could meet up with surges in customer traffic, notably lunch time and just after the work day. Particularly heavy traffic area (e.g. downtown core of Johannesburg) were left open 1 hour later to accommodate customers.

Follow-up report

As with any new initiative, you have to measure the change to see if it was worth the trouble. While the bank did experience a growth in customers and a reduction in churn, the most telling numbers came from a similar campaign that was run 6 months afterwards. Same questions, same process. This time, just under one million responses came in via text and social media. Repustate applied the same methodology as last time. The graph below shows the summary of the new results:

Positive (%)
Negative (%)

The two areas the bank put a big focus on, branch banking and the online experience, experienced large swings in sentiment. Branch banking actually had a positive sentiment score, which is pretty outstanding. Clearly more work had to be done, but the bank felt it had turned a corner in altering people’s perception of what a bank should be.