But Brazilian clients saw social networks somewhat differently. They recognized the power of social media to motivate their banks to provide faster, more responsive customer service. Before long, banking customers were not just tweeting about their complaints with banks, they were posting photos and videos too, creating a much larger impact and capturing the imagination of friends and the general public.
As a result, most Brazilian banks now view social media as a significant risk and – in response – many have created departments dedicated to monitoring and responding to social media conversations. But while there has been much activity in this area, Brazil’s banks seem to still be divided on just how to respond to negative comments posted on social networks; some re-route clients through to appropriate customer care channels, while others try to engage directly over phone, email or social media (though, in part, this may be a ploy to reduce the amount of ‘paperwork’ that comes with following the official customer complaint process).
However, there is still a small yet significant group of banks that have yet to develop their responsive media strategy. These banks face the biggest risk of all. It takes a matter of minutes for a customer complaint to become a ‘top trending’ issue on Twitter or to go viral on Orkut (a popular social networking site in Brazil). Banks simply do not have the time to mount an effective response within the timelines that social media demands, so any banks that have not prepared a strategy to deal with emerging issues in a fast and effective way will – almost certainly – find themselves drawing unnecessary criticism from their customers.
Brazil’s banks are also starting to sharpen their focus on security. In some cases, cyber criminals have been targeting customers with ‘phishing’ attacks based on their interaction with banks over social media. Criminals are also starting to leverage the wealth of public information available on many people’s social media profiles to ‘engineer’ passwords or provide positive identifications during call centre requests (common security questions include names of first pets, primary school teachers, or mother’s maiden names, all of which can easily be harvested from public profiles).
Interestingly, a number of Brazilian banks have started to recognize that security and privacy can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, managing the reams of data and multiple channels will stretch the bank’s security processes to the brink. But on the other, a strong security and privacy record can easily become a point of differentiation for banks.
So while Brazil’s banks seem to be taking a somewhat cautious approach to social media at this time, the country’s rapid consumer adoption of the technology points to significant changes on the horizon for banks in the near future.