However, taking a customer centric view is not going to be easy for most banks. In part, that is because banking communications have traditionally been either been one-way (advertising, direct mail, statements, etc) or one-on-one (customer service, branch banking, telephone banking, etc). As a result, many banks may be unprepared for the changes that must occur to make social media strategies succeed.
Let’s take a look at how an average customer might view interactions with their bank over social media. First, they probably only want to deal with one ‘company’ profile rather than multiple divisions. For banks, this means developing a ‘single view’ of the customer so that frontline social media employees are able to serve customer needs efficiently across the various divisions and businesses.
Customers will expect their banks to be responsive to their needs over social media. Given the immediacy of social media tools like Twitter, customers have come to expect that their social interactions will elicit an immediate (or at the very least, rapid) response. This has two implications for banks: frontline staff will need to be empowered to make immediate decisions; and information will need to be available in real-time for employees to properly address customer concerns.
Most importantly, however, is that customers will expect their banks to be more transparent in all of their interactions over social media.
This not only means providing customers with more information, it also requires the bank to be open to criticism – even encourage it – in order to provide a better customer experience. This will call for something of a culture shift within the bank that must start at the top and permeate down to the frontline staff.
They will also expect to gain some unique value from engaging with their bank over social media. In some cases, this may simply be a better customer experience or faster response time. But it may also offer banks an opportunity to differentiate themselves. Banks may consider the ‘gameification’ of financial services (for example, a tool that allows customers to play with different investment scenarios), or even incentivization (say, providing a better rate to customers who apply through social channels).
More active social network users may also welcome a ‘community’ aspect to the bank’s offerings. In fact, this may provide one of the biggest opportunities for banks: experience in the telco industry shows that peer-to-peer customer support can generate not only significant cost savings for companies, but also provide faster (and sometimes more personal) issue resolution. What’s more, those customers that provide peer support are more likely to be advocates of the bank and may be harnessed as net promoters in the future.
But banks will also need to remember that customers can be fickle. New channels and services will certainly emerge to enhance (or even replace) existing networks, even as customer expectations become more sophisticated.
Clearly, taking a customer-centric view of social media is going to be a long-term strategy.