While TD Bank's "once-a-decade" systems failure earlier this fall might have a serious impact on its reputation for convenience and reliability, it also offered an unusual customer-service opportunity: managing a crisis almost exclusively through Twitter.

"It's the first time I've seen a bank use Twitter in this way," said Robert Hunt, a senior research director at TowerGroup. "Banks have been using Twitter to communicate with customers, but this is the first time I've seen them use it to communicate about a major computer outage. ... You have to give them credit for opening up a new channel to allow customers to voice their frustrations."

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