Saturday, 4 February 2012

Struggling with social media in regulated times

I've been hearing this week about our social media performance for the last quarter of 2011. All pretty good on the home front, most metrics in the right place, performing ok against competitors, etc etc.

One of the recommendations that kept coming up was around 'engagement'.
- "this is a great opportunity to talk to your followers"
- "you really need to respond to these comments"
- "great chance to build a conversation with your audience"

These are all great points and in the majority of cases I think most brands would just crack on and start 'engaging'. This is a slightly different challenge when you are in the heavily regulated banking arena. Headline challenges for me are around:
- Audit
- identifying who you are talking to
- Privacy
- Complaint Handling

Econsultancy had an article on regulation in social media in Jan 2012. It addressed some of the things i talk about here but for me misses the crucial element of audit.

Looking at Audit first, there is a requirement for my bank to record all conversations with our customers. If we're doing any type of transaction or maybe giving advice, we need to have a note of that conversation in case we need to come back to the 'who, what and when' in months or years to come.

In social this isn't straightforward. I don't know of any banks that have a real time feed from Twitter in to their customer database or CRM platform, for example. Grabbing a screen shot does the job but uploading this to a banks legacy mainframe kit is also a no no.

Identifying a customer is close to impossible. A huge chunk of Twitter handles wont be the name of a person or at least a name you can understand. Taking the conversation in to DM won't fix the problem necessarily either.

Talking to customer about their finances in a public space is about as 'anti-banking' as you can get. You might wonder if the customer starts up the conversation then that's a different matter but the casual observer will see this as unprofessional at best and the professional observer ie the regulators, will have a field day.

So that leaves complaint handling. More and more bank customers are venting their frustration with poor service on Twitter and chat forums like Banks are regulated in terms of process and timescales for dealing with complaints but again, from what I see and colleagues in other banks i speak to, most aren't addressing this one yet.

Lots of problems but not many solutions. There are solutions out there of course, Autonomy is one that seems to be getting coverage recently. These are automatic software monitoring solutions of course which require entreprise adoption and implementation.  Not that straightforward in a bank with all those legacy systems, and spagetti server solutions.

All banks want to talk with their customers, regardless of what many people think. In fact many would love more foot flow in branches and the chance to cross and up sell to customers. Digitally in recent years we've seen many banking brands roll out the virtual chat agent to help answer questions or generally point customers in the right direction. I know we call that 'improving conversion' in banking land but genuinely trying to talk a customer through an issue while they are on site is helpful, makes us look like we're listening (even on a website) and yes it can help with sales conversion pipeline to. Most of the time these conversations are with anonymous 'prospects' o our public sites but increasingly chat tools are appearing in secure and importantly authenticated environments such as Online Banking, meaning we know who we're talking to, can tailor the conversation and offer better advice or options.

But this just doesn't work today in many social media environments. And no-one will be integrating Twitter or Facebook in to their online banking service any time soon.

Until banks and financial service providers can address these key issues there will always be difficulties doing the 'engagement' thing with customers through social media. If there is a magic wand solution, I think we'd all like to see it soon.

Please let me know what you think and what your experiences are in your own organisation. Would be great to hear them.

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