Making the case for banks to be active in social media
We all know that banking is a heavily regulated industry. That’s why so many banks are so behind the rest of the business world in their social media engagement. Of course, a careful approach is recommended, but not participating isn’t the right approach at all.
As banks stick their toes into the water, the most important rule to remember is “be transparent”. We’ll use the example of PNC Financial Services Group as an example of what not to do. Earlier this year, PNC suffered a partial website outage for some customers of its Virtual Wallet account. PNC posted a message on Twitter warning customers of slowness on the website. That part was good – using social media to alert customers to a problem. However, it went bad when a reporter asked over Twitter (yes, that’s how it’s done these days) for the cause of the problems. In a public reply over Twitter, PNC said the slowness was due to “reported online banking delays”. That’s when things went downhill. It took just one angry customer to reply that PNC’s answer was a non-answer. The company then faced an onslaught of negative comments and even when customers called in, call center reps were not providing any details about the cause or when service would be restored. PNC did apologize but the customers were looking for answers, not apologies.
Citi has a similar experience with an online banking outage but used social media to provide an estimate as for when service would be restored. Citi has a social media expert who, along with its social media lawyers, helps Citi provide immediate responses to outages and other crises. What used to be a lengthy approval process now exists in a playbook that the company can reference in any situation. If the answer isn’t in the playbook, a bank employee can call one of the social media lawyers and get an approval within minutes.
Banks that use social media effectively have found that it’s more important to be authentic and responsive than to be right or precise and that consumers are much happier if kept updated instead of in the dark.
Social media is also a two-way street. Banks can adjust their responses based on the volume of the discussion they see on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other websites. If very few people are complaining about a problem, the bank can respond to them individually.
If the bank errs too much on the side of disclosure and broadcasts constant updates about issues that only one or two customers have even noticed, they’re “crying wolf”. That’s why it’s so important to constantly be monitoring social media sites.
It appears that the banks that are avoiding social media fear it because they feel it’s uncontrollable. Transparency is not a regulatory issue, it’s a cultural one. Customers will have conversations about banks with or without the bank’s participation in them. Isn’t it much more controlled if the bank is involved in the conversation? I rest my case.