Socially Acceptable: The Advantages Of Customer-Centric Social Listening For Financial Institutions

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In this guest post, Hootsuite ANZ’s MD Heather Cook talks about the advantages customer-centric social listening has for financial institutions.

The way that banks and financial service businesses communicate with their customers is going through rapid evolution. Bricks and mortar branches across the country are closing because the reality is, people would far rather speak to their banking and financial institutions digitally.

The days of stepping into your branch and talking to your bank manager are dwindling. As a result, digital channels – and social media in particular – are key for financial businesses looking to connect with their customers.

Beyond the evolving banking model, there is more competition in the Australian market than ever before. It’s no longer just the Big Four, there are a whole host of other institutions fighting for customer attention and a slice of their wallet – brands like Volt, that became the first of a slew of new entrants to receive its full banking license, Up, the Bendigo-affiliated bank that’s giving customers a digital-only experience. There are more digital banks, such as 86 400, that are soon to come to market.

In a crowded marketplace, with more banks looking to bring in a younger demographic, social media and communications become an area for differentiation.

The one thing that these newer banks have in common is that they are wholly digital – because that’s what customers want. Their entire banks are digital, and that includes their communication channels.

According to Hootsuite’s Digital 2019 report, more than one million new people go online every day, and that 45 per cent of the world— nearly 3.5 billion people annually—are logging in to their favourite social platforms. In Australia, every single person using social media has an account with a financial institution, and 60 per cent own a credit card.

So, you can see how financial services in particular can benefit from increasing customer-centricity, brand building and risk mitigating aspects of having a well thought out social media plan.

Hootsuite’s 2019 Social Media Trends report  also highlights that consumers are tired of being treated as a block, and in return for their time and investment, want a deeper and more authentic relationship with their financial institutions.

A study by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research found that 100 per cent of the financial services organisations in the Fortune 500 maintained a social presence in 2018. But it’s the nature of this presence that needs to be examined. It’s no longer acceptable to just broadcast product information in a banner ad, or peddle new products. Innovating and engaging content is the way forward. The prevalence of ‘stories’ on various platforms (set to overtake newsfeeds in the near future) beg a more ephemeral, casual and personal engagement.

These stories, especially important in attracting customers of younger demographics, can be time-consuming to produce despite their low production values and transience. Plus, many financial institutions require multiple sign offs on content, making timely reactions nearly impossible.

One way around this is to create a central compliance hub to standardise community management and content expectations. Working much like a spell checker, it allows anyone to upload content but flags non-compliant content immediately, leading to faster turnaround times and less time wasted in seeking permission. Additionally, implementing this function is imperative to ensuring community managers can efficiently respond to the recent eruption of negative sentiment across social media, providing much needed clarity by using approved, straightforward and simple responses in a timely manner.

Once in place, like any strategy, goals need to be set. Financial institutions need to set their own results framework for the performance of their social media strategy, and it doesn’t always have to be the vague ‘brand awareness’. Clear call to actions, new business, subscribers to a newsletter are all measurable actions that can be reinforced through social platforms.

Businesses already know that social media is prevalent at every stage of the customer journey, and it is only going to become more important in the new financial services and banking sector.

Forty-one percent of organisations in financial services and insurance are in the ‘strategic’ phase of social maturity. The next phase is to use social data to build a holistic view of the customer. To create this view, social data needs to be integrated with existing analytics platforms (such as Google or Adobe Analytics), CRM systems (such as Salesforce), and customer experience platforms (such as Adobe Experience Manager and Marketo).

With this holistic picture of the customer, financial institutions can then personalise their services and tailor their offerings depending on the consumer, leading to deeper engagement and a more satisfying customer experience as traditional legacy products give way to an agile, more customer-centric business model.

Social media offers a wealth of information about customers, businesses just need to decide how best to use this information. For financial services and banking organisations, the way forward is using this insight in an authentic, personalised and compliant manner to address very real customer concerns and bring it back to the people.

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