Social customer service: Spotlight on banks

Triana Jarman

Earlier this year, MyCustomer carried out some unique research into the challenges facing those in customer-facing job roles. Honing in on audience members in the financial services sector, we found one particular challenge coming to the fore: social media. More specifically, the difficulty engaging and interacting with customers across social media channels.

Perhaps this shouldn’t have come as a surprise –  after all, the reality is that over a third of customer service enquiries via social media go completely unanswered! When you consider that over a quarter of consumers only turn to social media after they have already been unsuccessful using more traditional customer service channels, it is clear that this is a big problem area for many businesses.


What makes customer service on social media so difficult to get right?

The greatest challenge may be due to the complexity of integrating social media into the overall  service strategy. Social media can allow the fastest response rate to enquiries, yet issues of ‘ownership’ (often between marketing and customer service), investment and general understanding of this channel may be adding a layer of difficulty.
In recent years, call centres have extended their hours of availability to meet the demands of today’s consumers, with many offering a 24 hour service as standard. The rising customer expectations around social media must also now be met – yet a significant proportion of business are simply not set up to manage this demand. 

Why is this a particular issue for banks?

The fact that many banks are now detailing customer satisfaction data in their annual reports is a hugely important step in the industry taking the issue seriously, but our research found that the financial services sector continues to struggle in keeping up with consumer expectation when it comes to social media.
Businesses in this sector tend to require dedicated customer support staff to focus on specific areas of the business due to the complex nature of many products and services. In a rush to meet demand, some organisations instantly put into place social media teams which handle everything. Assuming the team members are competent and able to manage almost all enquiries themselves, this approach, known as the one-stop model, can indeed work. This can deliver fast turnaround times for simple enquiries, but there can be challenges for high complexity enquiries (where errors can lead to significant consequences), which can often be the case in banking. An alternative option, the concierge model, is one where the ‘concierge’ receives customer concerns from social networks, but rather than responding directly themselves issues the enquiry to specialist teams for resolution. 
Financial organisations that have perhaps dived in early and unwittingly established an isolated social media team may find a concierge approach, where there is a need for more technical competency, to be a more effective option. At the very least they may want to consider a hybrid of the two.

A good experience is about more than just a swift response

A recent eConsultancy post highlighted some real-life analysis of social media responses rates from a number of the best-known UK financial institutions. It is clear that what one bank may consider to be an acceptable performance can be quite different to another. Similarly, the quality of the response can vary wildly in terms of accuracy, tone of voice and general helpfulness. It is quite apparent that the challenge is about addressing a great deal more than the speed of response.

An issue of compliance

Another significant factor as to why some financial institutions consider social media somewhat of an enigma is that the compliance goalposts have changed in recent years. Prior to 2013, social media was not considered advertising but ‘promotion’, and as such it was not subject to the usual rules and regulations controlling bank advertising and communication. Things are now a little different and when it comes to marketing or communications – the industry regulators want to know that organisations understand the risk of engagement over these dynamic channels which are outside of their operational controls.
There is a requirement for all banks to monitor social media regardless of whether the bank has a formal active presence. With compliance policies now having to address the use of social media and how bank employees may interact with social postings, it is entirely understandable that there may be a little fear and complexity in managing service departments.


Making products within this sector appear more ‘interesting’ to a social audience

Can financial products be made interesting on social media? This was a clear challenge identified in our research. How to gain traction when it comes to social marketing around products and services that can be perceived as ‘dull’? The difficulty is less about having a boring product, because when you have an audience which needs your service they will NOT find it boring, but more about taking the right approach to talking about it. Many financial organisations fail to use inspiring stories or add any personality in a campaign, yet both of these factors are huge contributors to resonating well with customers and both lend themselves well to social media engagement. 
So it is quite evident that the use of social media for customer engagement is very far from being straight-forward, with complexities and dangers for all customer-facing brands, but especially so for financial institutions, that are failing to establish an approach which befits their customers’ expectations.
To discover more challenges being faced by today’s financial services organisations and other customer-facing industries download our insights report ‘The 10 Marketing Priorities of Customer-Centric Brands’.