Here is something that most banks overlook on social media – what will start off as a marketing effort will evolve into public relations and then morph into a customer service channel. This is a natural evolution that most banks should realize upfront before starting or expanding social media. If you are not ready for this, think twice before going down the social media road as our opinion, a halfhearted social media attempt is worse than no social media presence at all.
More and more we find ourselves reaching out to other companies through their social media channel and more and more our customers or potential customers try to reach us. The reason for this is while email is private and difficult to find, social media “handles” or properties are public and easy to discern. Thus, it is often more convenient to look up a company’s Twitter name or Facebook page than it is to try to guess an email address. For companies and individuals that are often on social media, this becomes second nature.
The other reason to be open to customer service through social is the fact on most channels, messages can be sent either privately or publicly. This flexibility can be a powerful as it brings another dimension to communication. A customer says something positive about you and you can highlight it and use it as a form of social validation – one of the most powerful sales tools available.
A CenterState Bank, for example, we have a stay at home mother’s organization that is quick to point out things we do right and things we do wrong. This organization is very fair and they prefer to communicate via social channels. Ignoring them would be a mistake, as would forcing them into a communication channel that is not convenient for them. The interesting part is they also wield strong influence. Being able to handle a group like this is best leveraged via social media as their network can be understood, their demographic information is easily available and their likes/dislikes available for your bank to see in order to formulate the best response.
Contrast that with an anonymous person that calls or sends an email. You likely don’t know anything about them. You may not know their sex, their education, their approximate age, their past communications or anything else. On social media, you do.
For banks that still doubt if they have to be on social media, we pointed how a small bank in Oklahoma, the Citizens Bank of Edmond , has a social media program that is superior to any large bank. They have leveraged their efforts to bring a priceless amount of marketing to the Bank and garner a huge amount of goodwill in their community. Their social media effort is fun, pitch perfect and effective. Send them a question or raise an issue and they respond.
On the negative side, we see countless examples everyday of customers that attempt to engage their bank on social media only to be met by other social media followers that are too happy to feedback the negative energy. This is chilling stuff for any senior executive or board member to watch in action as comments spiral out of control.
While it may seem like a massive undertaking, communicating with customers on social media is fairly straightforward. From a compliance point of view, the FFIEC guidance is similar to any other medium such as telephone or email. At CenterState, we started out with a robust social media policy and then made sure employees were properly trained in how to properly handle complaints, the limitations of what you can advertise, how to protect customer data on a public channel and proper social media etiquette.
The trickiest part here is to teach employees how to conveniently manage customers between channels when they wish to discuss secure or sensitive matters. Having everyone understand that line is helpful as is making sure the customer has the same experience on the phone, chat or email as they do on social media.
One of the best tips we can give banks is to train staff to understand the difference between a true irate customers, an individual looking to gain something by a false compliant and a posting by a bot or program designed to spam social media sites. Knowing when to engage and where to spend energy mainly comes from experience but it is critical for social media efficiency.
In order to create an audited trail, we then instituted an archiving system to make sure we had a record of all activity including capturing all of our blog posts and comments. In addition, we employ several inexpensive programs that monitors, alerts and can automatically respond to social media postings.
Our point today was to highlight where your bank’s social media effort could be heading. We have attended dozens of seminars, classes and workshops and most fail to truly understand the power and pitfalls of how banks can leverage social media. Most social media educators are marketing firms that rarely deal with regulation and a multi-channel environment. Many have never sold anything through social media or leveraged the vast amounts of analytical information available through the channel.
This isn’t to say we have all the answers, as we are just learning. Experience has proven the best teacher as we constantly experiment with how we use the channel. Following and watching other banks and other active social media companies has also proven to be a good resource.
Our advice is for banks to make a decision to either not be on social media or to commit themselves to at least one social channel. If you are primarily a retail bank, start with Facebook and then add Twitter. If you are a commercial bank, start with LinkedIn and then add Twitter. The important part here is to make a proactive decision. Banks are just starting to tap the power of social media as it has proven a great medium for marketing and holds deep potential when it comes to customer service.
If your bank is on the social media path, let us know as we would like to follow your journey. We have tried almost every tool and service available and have experimented with a variety of techniques and can hopefully save you time. Be sure to contact/follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or LinkedIn for more information.
Submitted by Chris Nichols on May 21, 2014