First Mariner Bank: A New Shining Star in Social Media PR

For all the fuss that has been made about Dell, Zappos, Comcast, JetBlue and a whole host of other big names utilizing Twitter and other forms of social media for their messaging and client support, there is one that stands out to me as the most impressive. I say this because of my own personal experience in the past few days. These encounters with my bank, 1st Mariner Bank, are fresh in my mind and, to me, demonstrate a truly productive means of “doing the job” with social media tools.

As an independent, self employed consultant, times can sometimes be tough. In fact, in many way, it’s a feast or famine game. You go through spells where clients don’t pay, they pay late, or you just can’t get the business going enough to generate the income needed to run the business, and sadly, sometimes to pay the bills. So bank runs are important. They are pivotal moments where you might go from pennies in the account to plenty of money to fill the reserves. Those bank runs are always personally fulfilling because it’s a statement that, hey, I don’t have to go find a “real” job now… I can continue to press forward pursuing the dreams I’ve tried to find on my own for these past years. That deposit of some check is a rewarding thing that, honestly, sometimes makes the difference between having the will to go on or just quitting outright.

On Wednesday, I finally received one of these very important checks that was long overdue from a client. With a diminishing bank account, I jumped in the car late in the day and trucked the 45 minutes through rush hour traffic just to get to the bank and find they were closed. When I called their customer service toll free number, I was informed (inaccurately, as I later discovered) that the drive through was still open. Since there was a problem with my Visa debit card, I couldn’t simply make the deposit at the ATM machine so I thanked the representative and tried the drive thru. As I said, I discovered it was closed as well.

Irritated, I jumped on Twitter and went ballistic, venting about how I was going to close my account and find a bank that was closer. I was livid and was letting the world know. These bank runs are not small things for me. They take gas and money and time away from my book. I have kept this account because I always valued the 1st Mariner Bank Customer Service, though, but even that wasn’t going to be enough to keep me banking 45 mins away from home.

@FirstMarinerBank contacted me on Twitter late on Wednesday and commiserated a bit, but did little to actually help my problem. I didn’t expect that he (or she) could, but it was nice to talk to someone nonetheless.

Thursday morning, I got back in my car and drove from Bethesda back to Columbia, Md. where I made the deposit into my account and had one of those personal victory celebrations in my head. I could breathe easier. About an hour afterwards, without prompting by me, I recieved a DM from @FMBCustServ (who might also be @FirstMarinerBank – I don’t know) notifying me that he (his name is Matt Sparks) had saw the deposit go into my account and would work hard to get it cleared for me by the weekend.

Fascinating.

I received another check yesterday as well (but sadly, not before I made my bank run) and thanked Matt, telling him I’d be making another deposit today (Friday) and thanking him for his efforts. And I did. Today, I went back to the bank (that’s the third bank run in three days, if you’re keeping track at home) to make a deposit and, convinced that I’d be stupid to leave the bank after their exceptional show of support, not only made the deposit and didn’t close my personal checking account, but also opened up a new business account for my company.

About an hour after this process, I received another DM from Matt letting me know that he also saw that deposit and noting I’d be able to have money for the weekend. I already did, but it was a nice personal touch.

This is the way customer service should be. As a customer, I may not know what I want or need. Going the extra mile (not wearing the minimum amount of flair, if you will) is what keeps customers around. If we, as customers, feel valued then we are going to value you even more.

It’s the economy of trust.

Well done, Matt Sparks and 1st Mariner Bank. If you’re local to Baltimore, this is the bank you should be doing business with because they get it. If you’re in Suburban DC, as I have been since October, it might even be worth the extra drive to do business with these guys.

This post and DMs shared with permission.

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Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

7 thoughts on “First Mariner Bank: A New Shining Star in Social Media PR”

  1. Great story, I am glad to hear that they actually made an effort. One of the biggest problems I have found recently with companies is that they simply hear your complaint after they have heard your frustrations and stiff arm you. That has happened to me by a few companies including Pac Sun Clothing & Credit Inform. Pac Sun didn’t put a hat in my bag that I purchased, so I had to return to the store the next day (45 minute drive) and they told me they need to look in to it before they can give me my hat. They wouldn’t even count the inventory or take time out to look in to the issue. I told them they should mail the hat to me, and they refused… Then the situation with Credit Inform, they signed my wife up for credit protection at $7 per month for about a year, and we never knew about it – and they refused to credit us for stolen money… Ugh, feels good to get that off my chest.

  2. This should also be a lesson of what it is like to be a business owner and have situations where a little patience and a bit of counting to “10” can help. I have been there when I was a day late and a dollar short and know of exactly what you were feeling and your description hits home as well. It’s the not so glamorous moments moments of being your own boss and being in charge of your own destiny. I’m sure you sit there tonight knowing that you can charge ahead on Monday not thinking about money again–that is if course until the next thing. It’s fun huh?

  3. It’s a sad thing that big companies (from my personal experience – Bank of America) rarely track their reputation and totally suck in Customer Service.
    On the other hand, it’s a huge opportunity for smaller businesses who can win the business by doing the right thing and showing exceptional Customer Service.

    A bit unrelated, but here a “classic” story on how “doing the right thing” also means winning business
    http://bit.ly/URrQx

  4. In the digital age it all seems such a hoohaa to me – going to the bank especially to deposit a cheque.
    I would have thought that perhaps introducing better technology was ‘doing it right’. The fault isn’t with First Mariner, it is with the client who uses cheques to pay, effectively borrowing the money from you for a few extra days. Hardly cost effective.
    Customers and will see a big change in the real quality of their financial services in the next couple of years. Just another way to save wasting all that gas depositing cheques. Technology might even empower these smaller institutions to play on the same field as the big banks whilst keeping their down home old-fashioned good sensible service.

  5. That is great news. It’s amazing, in the past you couldn’t ever take a stand or make a statement to impact companies customer service department. However, with the internet and technology, the tables have turned. I am glad to hear that everything turned out positive…

  6. Great example of proactive customer service. But when I first read this, I couldn’t help but think that you were the perfect candidate for remote deposit capture (this would allow you to simply scan in your checks to your bank, and they would post…rather than have to physically drive them to the bank). A quick glance at First Mariner Bank’s website looks like they do offer this as well – might be worth looking into to avoid those annoying long drives across town!
    http://www.1stmarinerbank.com/Business/Cash-Management-Services/Receipts/Remote-Deposit-Capture.aspx

  7. This issue makes is just another case that depicts how much things have changed. My mother took me to the bank and helped me open a savings account when I was about 8, and I would visit with my little book and make deposits of a few dollars of birthday money or odd job earnings.

    Recently a 20 yo was explaining that they didn’t know how to balance a checkbook and thought it was totally senseless that people still used checks. Sadly I have lost business a couple times in the last year or so because I asked for a check and could not take credit card payments.

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