Why use social media for a purpose which is already being handled by a call center and an entire bank department? According to a recent survey, undertaken by the American Bankers Association, it seems few things are scarier for banks that are active on social media platforms than the risk of negative feedback.
The survey found that 42 per cent of banks will not discuss any of their products or services on Facebook or elsewhere social – most likely out of fear they would be ‘airing’ client support laundry in public. This goes to confirm and, respectively, to demonstrate, two nuggets of popular wisdom. First off, banks have always preferred to adopt a safe, middle-of-the road type of attitude when it comes to marketing and promotion efforts. Secondly, many top-level decision makers in the banking industry are still not sold on the potential that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other similar channels have in reinforcing their image as a transparent institution.
Social networking platforms are anything but risk-free, when it comes to generating communication. Not all of that communication will be laudatory, but receiving one or several negative comments is not the end of the world. On the contrary: an institution that knows how to address less than stellar feedback, and in a public forum, even, stands to garner a lot more respect from its current and potential clients.
It’s somewhat understandable that the conservative world of banking would choose to steer clear of the perils of negativity from the public. After all, the recession may be gone, but its damaging effects on consumer morale are tangible and long-lasting. However, ignoring an issue is not going to make it disappear by magic. Similarly, receiving negative comments and failing to respond to them (or worse, deleting them!) will cause a furthering of this gap in trust, yet addressing such issues is nowhere near as complicated as some may believe.
Australian bank Bankwest was one of the first to go online on Facebook,and while its number of fans might not be the most impressive one among all banks Down Under, all those who are there have been brought in organically. They have liked a page which speaks to them of more than just products and services. Aside from providing a Timeline history of the Western Australia bank, the Facebook page is also in place to help clients discuss issues and provide feedback. On a less formal note, they are also communicating regularly about non-financial events and more leisurely subjects such as the weather.
The above is a close description to what all banking Facebook pages should aspire to be: a balanced mix between marketing, client support, and advertising. Of course, when it comes to client support, no online social network can be expected to fully replace the more traditional call center. Replacement is not an option, but a complementary approach is recommended. David Knapp, the manager of Bank of America’s Twitter account reports that he often receives questions that are typical for client support.
Since most of them involve disclosing confidential banking information, he will redirect those who ask to a private conversation. What’s just as important, though, is that this approach has helped the bank successfully tackle the issue of credibility, which it faced when the bank first joined Twitter. Yet another situation in which transparency across social media could prove valuable is that of a merger/acquisition between financial institutions. Such scenarios often involve a substantial amount of stress, both for bank representatives, as well as for clients. And, as usual, honesty and openness are the best policy to do away with that stress.
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