Despite its relative infancy, social media already holds great power, garnering the attention of industries across the board. Leaders recognize that these emerging channels have the potential to bring customer service to the next level as such inherently conversational networks allow companies to engage and assist their audiences on an individualized basis. For the financial services sector, however, social media's public platforms and banking's sensitive nature clash, causing institutions to tread carefully as they gradually roll out social service options.
Historically, social media has served as marketers' vehicle for broadcasting brand messaging. Because popular networks have gained devoted followings rather quickly, marketers see social as an opportunity to expand reach and increase word of mouth. But, as consumers start turning to social media to air their frustrations and seek assistance, companies must develop strategies for acknowledging this sentiment and using this feedback to improve operations.
Banks, of course, must proceed with caution, as the financial services sector remains subject to an array of rules, regulations, and restrictions that aim to protect consumer information. According to Frank Eliason, global director, client experience team at Citi, most financial institutions listen to what's being said on social, but few have yet to cultivate deeper engagement and rethink their banking experience strategy overall. Banks must use this incoming feedback to fix what's broken internally, as most circumstances indicate an underlying issue that reaches much further than one lone individual.
Thus, as Eliason emphasizes, social media typically derives from one of three perspectives: marketing, communications, or customer service. Most banks have already established their social media presence to be one that shares educational information, but few have proven successful at social service. Banks must reevaluate their brand image and alter the way they interact with customers to account for this shift in behavior, as users view social as their mouthpiece, for these public platforms threaten to compromise brand reputation. Listening may be the first step, but acting upon these concerns brings service to the next level, leaving no complaint unheard.
However, not all banks use social media in the same capacity. While some have integrated transactional tools that link with Facebook or Twitter directly, others use social media as an additional listening platform that provides insight into customer sentiment. Such companies use this feedback to resolve case-by-case problems, as well as underlying infrastructure issues that threaten customer experience at its core. Yet, regardless of their methods or motivations, all social banks focus on fostering customer trust, as the financial industry continues to position itself as consumers' partner, not adversary.
Foreign Banks Bring Basic Transactions to Facebook and Twitter
Though financial institutions are subject to numerous federal regulations and restrictions, multiple foreign banks have developed emerging strategies that bring basic transactions to the social sphere. Rakuten Bank Ltd. of Japan recently launched Transfer by Facebook, which allows consumers to transfer money to anyone on their Facebook friends list using the Rakuten Bank mobile application. Users need only link their Rakuten Bank account and Facebook account via the firm's mobile app. Once users have selected the desired recipient from the Facebook friends list, they must then enter the amount (in yen) they wish to transfer, no recipient account information required. Users may also include messages of up to 50 characters with each transfer. Rakuten Bank also ensures users that privacy will remain protected, as notice of this transaction will appear in the news feed of the sender and the recipient only.
Groupe BPCE, France's second largest bank, has instituted something similar as it embarks upon its direct partnership with Twitter. By teaming up with this leading social network, BPCE customers can now transfer money via tweet for free. Spawned by Twitter's push into the world of online payments, this method affords BPCE customers the convenience of simple person-to-person money transfers to French consumers regardless of what bank they use without requiring the sender to know the recipient's account details. Users need only download the S-Money mobile application, which allows French consumers to link their credit card information and phone numbers to their Twitter accounts so they may begin making payments to individuals and companies that have also downloaded the service. Payments to individuals are capped at 250 euros, while charity or crowdfunding donations are capped at 500 euros. S-Money relies upon the credit card industry's data security standards, so all transactions are protected. However, users must be aware that all social transfers are publicly visible via Twitter, so discretion is advised.
TD Bank Embraces Creative Content to Cultivate Community
For TD Bank, social media isn't about selling products or services. Instead, executives believe this channel offers the company an opportunity to engage with customers, provide customer service, and share information to expand relationships beyond the average banking transaction. Because financial firms rely so heavily on trust, TD Bank constantly works to develop new methods for cultivating community conversation and growth. By establishing social service teams in both Canada and the United States, call center specialists interact with consumers on Twitter and Facebook directly, listening to customer concerns and resolving issues as they arise. Such methods allow TD Bank to rectify pressing problems before they get out of hand, thereby minimizing the likelihood of potential PR disasters.
However, TD Bank's venture into video content moves beyond typical social service, as the company's recent viral hit aims to demonstrate its devotion to customers' needs no matter the channel. Known as #TDThanksYou, the online campaign highlights TD Bank's "automated thanking machines" using an emotional YouTube video (below) of customers receiving surprise gifts from these unconventional ATMs. From one woman's unexpected savings accounts for her children, to another woman's tickets to Trinidad to visit her sick daughter, the video not only displays TD Bank's ability to listen, but also its eagerness to go above and beyond customer expectations. By saying 'thank you' to these select customers, TD Bank sparked social conversations that allowed customers to express their appreciation, ultimately humanizing the company and fostering the trust and satisfaction necessary for long-term relationships and prospect acquisition.