Most banks pay little attention to their online reviews. This is a problem as reputational risk is often monetized, either positively or negatively on the back of online reviews. Either banks don’t cultivate reviews or worse, they never think of them. Not only do reviews influence potential new customers more than any other single source but they can have a material impact on search engine rankings. In a recent Brightlocal survey, 94% of respondents said they look up online reviews before choosing a business. Millennials, in particular, will often trust online reviews over friends and family. Google, Bing, Yelp, Facebook, BBB.org, NerdWallet, MyBankTracker, Credit Karma and others all are influenced by reviews which, in turn, influence potential customers. In this article, we give an overview of how reviews impact new customer acquisition and show banks ways to improve their standing.
Reviews are going to occur with or without your bank’s help so you might as well get ahead of the trend. At a minimum, your bank should be aware of what is being said about you and ensure that at least your information displayed by each online property is accurate.
Star ratings and then written reviews have the largest influence on potential bank customers. In fact, Brightlocal found that two-thirds of consumers report needing at least four reviews before they trust a business and half of the respondents won’t use a business with less than a 4-star rating. While review management takes time, the cost is minimal compared to other alternatives. Think of all the expense you have with print, sales effort, brochures and social media. Reviews are more than five times more influential than print advertisement, six times more influential than social media advertisement and almost four times more influential than a business development officer making a pitch.
Quantifying Positive Reviews
Contrary to what many bankers believe, customers are far more likely to leave a bank an online review for a good experience (63% by the Brighthouse survey) than for a bad experience (35%). This means that many bank customers are primed to help the bank out – but they just need to be primed. This is doubly worth the effort as search engines like Google and Bing weight reviews heavily for local search results. The more reviews you have, the number of new reviews, the number of times a bank responds to a review and photos all play a role in a bank’s rankings. Banks that get their local reviews right can find themselves ranked at the top of the page without paying for keywords.
If you want to quantify this, consider that there were a little over 5,000 generic searches around our Palm Beach, FL market this month. To make it to the top of the page, CenterState would have had to pay approximately $3.80 per search or a cost of over $19,000 per month. Getting reviews right can achieve even better conversions at a small fraction of the cost.
Claiming and Cultivating Positive Review
Reviews, unfortunately, don’t happen by themselves (at least not many). Successfully managing reviews start with identifying those properties that your bank wants to rely on. This depends on your target demographics, location, and orientation. Most banks target Google (which also drives Google Maps), Yelp (since it also drives Apple Maps), Facebook, and a couple of bank-specific sites.
The next step is to “claim” your business. Most properties allow you to identify yourself and ensure that the information about your business is accurate. This includes listing contacts, operating hours and similar information. Our recent review showed that only 60% of banks had done even this basic step.
Next, banks need to design reviews postings into their banking process. This means setting expectations upfront by letting customers know that you are going to earn their trust and a referral. At the end of any positive material interaction such as a pleasant account opening, bankers can remind customers to leave a review. Reminders can be included on ATM receipts, bank statements, and marketing materials. The most important thing is to ask for a review and provide a pathway to make it easy for the customer.
Banks that excel at reviews have a proactive effort and either assign someone at each branch to manage reviews or manage reviews in a centralized fashion with the help of reputational management software such as Yext, ReviewTrackers, ReviewPush, Reputation.com, Trackur, and others. This software is ideal for banks with more than ten locations as it can make reputational management highly efficient. Alternatively, review management is an excellent activity that can be outsourced to an agency knowledgeable about banking.
Once you decide the method and process for managing your online reputation, here are some additional tips that will help your effort:
Putting This Into Action
Most banks rely on word of mouth to do their marketing for them. If this is your bank, realize that online reviews are the new word of mouth. Online reviews will only increase in importance and banks that manage their reputation will rise to the top of both search engine results. This means that not only more potential customers find you but those that do will have higher conversion rates than customers that don’t see the reviews.
Banks that work on increasing their reviews by two to three per month, proactively manage both positive and negative comments, leverage fun events to help drive reviews and photos and make review management a part of their marketing effort will find that they will noticeably increase business.
Submitted by Chris Nichols on November 15, 2017