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The Customer Engagement & Experience Company
Customer Experience Banking on Social Media
A Strategic approach towards Indian Banks' presence on Social Media
Author Designation Date
Rahul Singh Marketing Manager Mar. 31st 2011
India – an economy that has one of the highest youth population in the world and will add 241 million people in the working-age population by 2030 (Source: UN). India's current online population is an estimated 81 million connections and 54 million users and a majority of Internet users are in the age group of 19-35 in the SEC A. B and C categories. This population is growing by a third each year and is the key target group for marketers to engage in a meaningful and long-term relationship especially in urban India where household penetration is estimated at nearly 45%. The Indian Youth are discovering the potential of the online medium to stay connected with each other and with the rest of the world in general. This, coupled with a booming economy, has empowered the younger generation to express themselves, share information, explore and familiarize with the virtual space.
Internet – A virtual platform with real-life people
The days of people having concealed usernames like ‘Iamyoung22’ are gone. Today users flaunt their real names, recent activities, relationship status and almost all other aspects of their daily lives over the Internet. This is because internet is no longer an unknown and unexplored space but a very real and integral part of their everyday lives. And the natural progression is thus the impetus that the social media websites across the country have seen.
The following bar chart depicts the Social Media scenario in India
The point of confluence: Social media meets Banking
As social media continues to grow, and makes its presence felt more and more, the industry that should be sitting up and taking note is Banking – a service that touches our lives ubiquitously. The confluence is inevitable; how to exploit to create a competitive advantage is what should be on every marketer's mind. With the growing purchasing power parity of the Indian middle class and growth opportunities across sectors, banking in India is on a flourishing note. The banking index has grown at a compounded annual rate of over 51 per cent since April 2001 as against a 27 per cent growth rate in the market index for the same period. Foreign banks are also trying to leverage on this growth run and increasing their footprint in the Indian market. The opportunity to leverage the social media consumers’ online behavior in the context of the banking industry, has a high potential and an extremely potent upside. Till today, Indian banks have been through their “aggressive acquisition” phase. However, the key to long term profitability is retention and increasing profitability of existing customer base. Essentially in this “forming” phase, social media plays a key role in customer engagement by enabling banks to obtain exponential financial value, build strong bonds and cultivate long term profitable customers. This is the line of sight that every marketer needs to have and this whitepaper helps you do exactly that.
How the Big Boys play the game : The global scenario
“As an industry, if you really think about it, banking is about being personal… The fact is their basic aspect is a very personal relationship and social media is a way to enhance that and bring that back, so I think it's a perfect fit.”
- Frank Eliason, Senior Vice President of Social Media For Citibank
Leveraging the social network of its consumers and prospects has become a globally recognized practice of banks. The major players include Wells Fargo, Citi Group, ING and BBVA among others. Bank of America is one of the pioneers in this domain. They launched a dedicated Twitter feed to address customer queries and grievances. Given their strong orientation towards Online Reputation Management, they actively browse the 'Twitterverse' for any negative sentiments to address. It may be helpful to note that in doing so they don't utilize their bankers' hours. In fact, BoA has a team of five people working full-time to keep the online conversations going 24 x 7. If you take a look at its tweet history there are plenty of promising signs. Wells Fargo has taken things to the next level by creating a Virtual Engagement Platform for socially connecting their prospects and engaging customers.
Bank of America on Twitter
Wells Fargo's Stage Coach Island
Citi on Facebook
The Indian Scenario
Indian marketers are slowly waking up to this reality, but the adoption of social media as an integral part of building customer relationships and providing superior customer experience is still lagging. The unstructured nature of the medium and the surprises that it is likely to throw creates uncertainties and sometimes not-so-pleasant surprises, which the marketers are not yet ready to face.
If you can't beat them, join them. Social Media is here to stay.
Social media is a platform that defines the way we communicate in the era of Web 2.0
Social Media is currently just a listening tool.
Banks in India certainly have a presence on social media. The scope however, is limited and social media is still considered only as an alternative media channel. Currently social media serves as a listening platform only with minimal or no consumer engagement.
How banks are executing it…
• One of the largest banks in India has quite an active presence on Twitter. But if a prospect/customer asks for help or gives a suggestion, users are provided an automated response to contact the call center or walk in to the nearest branch. Not a great experience for even the most benevolent customers. • On the other hand, one of its major competitors is using Twitter as a medium to make its customers, both present and future, aware about its new and existing product benefits. Case in point: a revolutionary platform that is being used in a “push” way just like traditional media has always being used. The essence of the platform – the ability to listen and then “react” appropriately, in an innovative, even immersive manner, is an opportunity lost in this case.
Decoding challenges, the way most marketers see it
The Ostrich Syndrome : Owing to the very essence of social media being a two-way channel, most Indian banks shy away from a robust social media engagement, because the negative feedback is daunting. Fact is, even if marketers choose not to listen, the customers do not stop talking.
Using the 'hard-sell' strategy is completely inappropriate, and is almost a breach of a consumers' privacy. It is also counterproductive to the very strength of the medium. Traditional marketing strategies in social media are bound to be a failure, which results in a chicken and egg situation.
Social media marketing might not require huge capital investment as compared to other marketing channels. However, it requires commitment and active participation thus making it 'time-intensive', an aspect that most marketers are currently missing on!
For most marketers social media is like groping in the dark. Integrating it effectively with other elements of the marketing strategy, and using strong consumer behavior insights such as understanding the pattern of their transactions, noting their various touch-points with the bank hence becomes the key, which currently marketers are missing on!
Using S0cial Media as a tool for customer engagement and experiences
Banking as an industry, thrives on 'trust' among its customers. The recent financial crisis was a major testimony of that. The obvious fact arises that since there is an end-user's money involved in the business, he/she is bound to ask questions and raise queries in an open forum like Social Media, courtesy the openended nature of social media. It is not advisable for a bank to remain inactive on the social media due to the fear of negative customer feedback.
“Social Media is a channel which exposes a marketer's dedication to customer experience. You either do it or you don't. There are no mid-paths!”
- Kim Saldanha, VP, Customer Centria
Social media unplugged - Converting challenges into opportunities
Marketers get a ring side view : It allows a bank to get a first-hand view about consumer’s thought process, likes & dislikes, competitor conversations, market trends, etc. By using advanced tools like ‘Buzz Metrics’ to monitor and moderate buzz, and then using this to analyze one’s efforts and channelizing resources retrospectively helps provide enhanced customer engagement.
According to a report by ROI Research for Performance, June 2010 - 53% of people on Twitter recommend companies and/or products in their Tweets, with 48% of them delivering on their intention to buy the product.
You heard it first! Continuous engagement, first out approach via recent policy updates, new features, add-ons on service front, supporting relevant social causes, providing help on query resolution, etc. is the ideal strategy that flanks a plethora of offerings without hard-selling. As a marketer you put it out there; the consumer has the choice to embrace or ignore and is hence not intrusive.
An Average consumer mentions specific brands over 90 times per week in conversations with friends, family, and co-workers. (Keller Fay, WOMMA, 2010)
Create social media as a credible, alternate channel of communication with the bank. Social Media Interaction implies that Indian banks get a chance to engage with prospects beyond branch timings and geographies.
Two or more channels are used by 78% of consumers to browse, research and make purchases. (ATG, March 2010)
Social media is guaranteed to provide effective customer dialogue. However once committed, every marketer needs to be tuned in to the dialogue and dedicated to building a long term emotional relationship with the consumer. Implicit in the term Social Media Interaction is the fact that marketers are guaranteed a chance to engage with their prospects beyond the limitations of branch timings and geographies; the onus is thus on the marketers.
The highest performing businesses use consumer insights in 80% of sales and merchandising (GOOD Magazine, March 2010)
Truly exploiting Social Media also provides an opportunity to create experiential profiles for each one of their customers, enabling better targeting. This stems from a deep understanding based on extremely personal details, like areas of interests captured through various apps/games/events, etc. Hence, consumer behavior can be better understood and used to provide the best value proposition to the end-user.
In a study conducted by social networking site myYearbook, 81% of respondents said they'd receive advice from friends and followers relating to a product purchase. (Click Z report)
Social media gives marketers the opportunity to convert prospects into consumers and later into brand evangelists. A key ingredient to long tail engagement is User Generated Content.
Consumer reviews are significantly more trusted - nearly 12 times more than descriptions that come from manufacturers. (eMarketer, February 2010)
As marketers, we communicate a plethora of messages to the universe; however the traditional concepts of B2B and B2C are passé. Marketers today must adapt to the role of a catalyst and hence encourage and facilitate user generated content.
= Brand Ambassadors
User content is your key asset when it comes to social media and facilitating this user content is your core liability. You definitely run the risk of perhaps falling into an uncontrollable negative conversation, however the pay-offs are worth the risk:
Making Social Media work for you
This involves forming boundariless communities which are based on experiential profiles. Ambitious entrepreneurs, creative thought leaders, the young and the restless - banks can create communities which mirror emotional payoffs for each of their products / verticals or service offerings. This not only aids accurate segmentation of prospects, but enables bonding beyond the product. Also, the key point to remember is the consumers' need to react to consumers, not a corporate.
Getting a first-hand customer view of his needs and suggestions and that too in a structured manner can become the most important tool in your arsenal for product research. Real time research, facilitates a marketer to become more nimble and responsive to a customer's needs.
With social media you are directly interacting with a customer or a prospect and answering their queries. This reduces traffic at branches and call-centers. Lead generation and customer query resolution can be achieved at much lower costs. This also ensures that a prospect/customer is provided the right knowledge about product benefits, building a bond of trust.
Social media is one of the most effective platforms to accurately segment users and communicate the right message to the right user at the right time and thus boost sales. Creating a positive brand wave among the target group is a lot simpler and effective. Innovation is what will make you stand out, and make your consumers want to “spread the gospel”.
The current financial crisis has led many customers to distrust banks, which is one reason why a bank must now turn to social media. Social Media provides a perfect platform to communicate product benefits, updates and hence build trust.
“Social Media facilitates 'shared awareness', a phenomenon that has lately proved its power to even change the fortune of a nation. Imagine the power with which it can work positively to protect your brand from malicious rumors.”
- Rahul Singh, Marketing Manager, Customer Centria
The bottom-line is that Customer Engagement via social media is less about technology and more
about communicating the right message in an interactive and creative manner. Social interaction is not monolithic; there are many channels that can integrate social media strategy to provide a comprehensive customer experience. Every username is an individual representing that username and he/she must be having a bank account, depositing money, investing money, and so on. Hence, flanking ones social interaction strategy via mobile apps, real world offers, gaining insights on the created database, predictive modeling, direct mailers, creating online virtual worlds, etc. is the right way to extend customer engagement possibilities. Banks could potentially miss opportunities to mitigate risk by choosing not to participate in social media. As a result, we recognize the value of a controlled and closely managed approach to social media as one of the many ways that banks can engage with its customers and prospects online. The crux of the matter is that – today's consumer is becoming more-and-more tech savvy however, the marketers aren't being able to catch up. Social media when clubbed with enhanced event-based marketing, insights and creative digital communication, can create the perfect value chain to engage the end-user. Customer Centria provides social media solutions ranging across channels and creates a customer experience and engagement platform via Internet presence, mobile apps, virtual worlds and technology services. Customer Centria's thoughtful and balanced strategy can most definitely enhance Customer experience through interactive channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, mobile apps, games and perhaps a virtual online bank branch. These channels help companies to provide a superior and customized experience to their customers with lower costs. Customer Centria's dedicated marketing and technology services help you strike the right chord with your customers, both present and future.
If we want to succeed in the Market place of Conversations, we have to enter the world of our fellow consumers and customers and breathe the same air they're breathing. We have to Listen, Engage, Energize, Motivate, Share, Laugh, Empathise and Serve. We have to trust as much as be trusted. We have to Love as much as be loved. We have to relate as much as we seek a relationship. There in lies the truth.
We have no choice but to adopt the C2C idiom or be left out…forever.
- C R Vinay, MD, Customer Centria
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