By Ray Rahmati
With the majority of banking institutions now providing ways for consumers to connect with them through online, mobile and social channels, the opportunity to create deep, long-lasting and valuable relationships has never been greater.
But with so many consumer touchpoints and a consumer base that expects always-on, 24/7 access, how do financial institutions remain responsive while also working down the road to retain consumer trust? There is a lot that the industry can learn from personal relationships.
1. Don’t get trapped in transactional thinking (even when transactions are your goal).
No one wants to be “sold” to. When someone in on a sales pitch, an instinctual wall goes up, and oftentimes we go into defensive mode. Rather than being sold, today’s consumer wants to be engaged in a way that demonstrates that their financial services institution has a deep understanding of their personal goals.
They are looking for financial institutions to move away from a one-size-fits-all product-focused sales approach towards an approach customized to their own specific needs.
Social media provides such a unique opportunity to build relationships and trust, yet so many financial institutions continue to get trapped in transactional thinking.
Banks can see an example of how social media can be used to build relationships by looking at the social media efforts of one bank service provider, Kasasa by BancVue.
Kasasa is using social media to humanize the brand to followers and financial institutions, while also employing a strategy that puts the needs of customers over marketing goals. Social media is used to market their free checking and savings products to banks. In July, a refreshed website dedicated to their software was introduced and includes a social collage where user-generated social content, including images and positive feedback (testimonials), are featured, giving customers the opportunity to not only engage with the brand, but showcase their own voice while communicating their individualized needs.
2. Abandon old school behavior
While good old-fashioned manners and dating etiquette can translate into how financial services brands interact with their customers on social, antiquated practices should be avoided. The days of “ordering for your date” or the banking equivalent—pushing unnecessary products or services that are not targeted at the individual customer—are gone.
While being interesting and engaging through your social content is table stakes, banks must actively listen to their customers in order to gain a deep understanding of their needs, goals and pain points.
For example, audits of customer comments, online reviews and frequently asked questions can provide targeted insights that can not only help shape new product offerings but can teach the bank about a customer’s wants and needs. A customer posting about their child graduating high school might be an appropriate opportunity to engage around auto or college loan options.
Banking is a fragmented market, and customers are catching on, often selecting different institutions for different services. Community banks and credit unions are vying for the same customers as the big multinationals, and customers that are longing for more of a personal touch and deeper relationship are realizing that there are “other fish in the sea.”
Financial institutions that actively listen to customers and put the customers’ needs above their own, will ultimately drive more opportunities and better experiences for their customers.
3. Thrive within the challenge
One of the biggest mistakes I continue to see from financial services customers is the constant fear of retribution being levied by Big Brother (the regulatory bodies). Yes, there are myriad regulations and compliance standards placed on financial institutions from organizations like FINRA and the SEC, and dozens of stories about companies getting hit with huge fines for noncompliant social media usage. But like an older brother or other authority figure, the regulatory bodies are guides who only have the best interest of the institutions and their customers in mind.
The challenge is that financial institutions have felt handcuffed by compliance. While it is of utmost importance to be mindful of the regulations, it’s equally important to not let them stifle.
Creating connections with your institutions legal and compliance teams is a critical component of any social media strategy and process. Sitting down with them early and often to discuss guidelines and set guardrails around compliant social use will pay dividends for the experiences you are able to create for customers.
4. Follow through and follow up
In the digital/mobile age, we’ve all experienced this scenario at one point or another: You spend, what feels like, hours crafting the perfect text. You send it…and then you wait. The text bubble appears, indicating that the person is crafting an equally thought out and witty response. And then…nothing. No response. You spend, what feels like days, agonizing over why this person hasn’t responded. Were they hit by a bus? Should you call the local hospitals to see if they are okay? Why are they not responding?!?!
The same feeling permeates when financial institutions ignore their customers on social.
Reaching out, engaging and following through with customers is critical for building real relationships. Financial institutions can take a very calculated approach to jumping into social, scrutinizing guidelines, regulations and customer behavior before deciding whether to engage. But once a channel has been launched, it’s not just about posting information, but engaging customers and collaborating with them; understanding what their challenges are and working together to find a resolution. But if you request a customer to communicate with you in another nonsocial channel, such as voice or email, be sure to follow up the conversation to resolution while tracking that conversation across the channels used.
Following through and following up creates positive customer sentiment toward a company. Even if the information being communicated is not what the customer wants to hear, or if an answer isn’t immediately available, knowing the brand followed through in a timely and professional manner mitigates the negative impact.
As the financial services industry and social media marketing landscape changes, so comes the opportunity for these institutions. By placing the needs and goals of customers front and center, these institutions can create value and long-lasting relationships with their customers.
Ray Rahmati is a market director and social business consultant at Spredfast, where he provides strategic and operational counsel to help brands and agencies build lasting relationships with customers on social media. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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