In today’s world, social media is a part of our everyday lives. We are connected to our family, friends, and coworkers through computers, tablets, and smartphones. People are even following their favorite celebrities and becoming fans of brands on social media sites. But what about our banks? People have traditionally associated banks with being old fashioned and the last to adopt new technology, but new trends in social media have been emerging recently in the area of customer interaction. How will these new trends shape the bank-customer interactions of the future? What are the benefits to banks of utilizing social media?
A recent Wall Street Journal article by Suzanne Kapner talks about a Citibank customer who got so frustrated while she was on hold with Citibank’s customer service that she hung up and took her frustration to Twitter. She tweeted to Citi about how annoyed she was with the low quality of customer support she was receiving. “To her surprise, a Citibank agent tweeted right back, ‘Send us your phone number and we’ll call you right now,’ read the message.” She then sent them her phone number and received a call from a Citi agent within minutes.
This sort of customer service may seem unreal from a large bank because it is impossible for them to respond to all of their customers personally, but Citi actually has 30 customer service agents who are trained in how to use social media to interact with customers. The article lists 10 more banks that are on Twitter and respond to customer tweets, including: Ally, Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, Discover, Fifth Third, ING Direct, SunTrust, TD Bank, and Wells Fargo.
Some banks may still consider social media as a necessary evil and something they “can’t not do”, but if embraced social media gives banks a huge opportunity to improve their customer service and protect their reputation. If more banks respond proactively to social media mentions from customers quickly and effectively like Citi did, they could see a quick improvement in their customer satisfaction. Not only will the customer that received a resolution be satisfied with the fast response, but other users of the social media site will see the interaction and be more confident in their interactions. The more positive social media mentions a bank has from their users, the more effective word of mouth advertising will be for building the bank’s brand image and acquiring customers.
Another benefit of banks utilizing social media is the wealth of consumer feedback they have access to. Even if they do not respond to comments, banks can view what consumers are saying about them on the top social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google +. This gives banks great insight into what kind of products, services, and benefits consumers are really looking for. If banks could incorporate this knowledge into their research and development strategies, they would have even greater opportunities to more accurately design products that would satisfy consumer needs.
This research could be especially useful when banks are designing products to help them reach underbanked consumers. Underbanked consumers may not use traditional banking services but they do use social media sites. Through existing customers on social media, banks will be able to reach their customers’ friends through newsfeeds and recent activity logs, allowing them to reach underbanked consumers. By positively interacting with existing consumers on social media sites, banks could have a better chance of building a relationship with the millions of underbanked consumers.
Every day the world is becoming more socially connected. With mobile technology, consumers are able to stay constantly connected to their friends, family, coworkers, and now even their bank. Will the new norm be for people to connect to their banks via social media? Should we start friending our banks? Time will tell, but it is clear that other banks could take a lesson from Citi and use social media to their advantage by staying connected with their customers. By responding instantly, banks can transform their reputation into a trusted advisor of their customer, not an annoyance.