Are You Part of the Conversation?

origamibirds_MFYour financial institution may be the heart of its community, but once the conversation goes online, does your bank follow?

The Financial Brand published a piece earlier this week on the 5 LinkedIn Myths Bankers Need to Shake, detailing research from consulting firm St. Meyer & Hubbard and marketing technology firm kadince.com that found that more than half of banks forbid their bankers to craft relationships through LinkedIn.

This is just the latest study that highlights the problematic relationship between banks and social media. A year ago, Bank Director, in its 2013 Bank Board & Executive Survey, found that less than half of banks engage with customers through Facebook or Twitter.

Yes, there are risks in social media engagement, so your bank does need a plan. Your bank might not be on social media, but your customers are. Social media monitoring service mention says that the average company is mentioned 39 times a day and almost 300 times a week. Of these, few talk directly to the company — meaning that they won’t be talking to your bank, but they will be talking ABOUT your bank.

And in a today’s competitive environment, you might want to pay attention to the social media conversations that consumers are having about other banks in your market. According to Forbes, Verizon and AT&T are monitoring complaints about competitors like T-Mobile so they can reach out to these unhappy customers and offer their own services. Media Bistro examines this further, saying:

If you’re not using Twitter to listen to customers, you’re missing out on one of its most significant benefits. Since Twitter is an open network, you have the opportunity to use tools and search to discover what anyone is saying about any topic, in real time.

Verizon is focusing its efforts on those users that are seen as “influencers” – Twitter users that have a lot of followers. Who are the influencers in your community, and where are they? If they’re not on Twitter, they’re likely on LinkedIn, a social network built entirely around business leaders. Don’t you want to be where your customers are? Because it’s likely that your competitors will be.

LOFTy Expectations

I’m a big fan of LOFT, the lower-cost little sister to the slightly more upscale Ann Taylor, but their most recent sale probably lost me as an online customer.

LOFT ran a big sale Sunday that offered a 70 percent discount off sale items. Who doesn’t love a good deal? The sale expired at midnight, so I started to browse late Sunday evening on my iPhone. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get past browsing–the website constantly crashed. This isn’t the first time that LOFT’s website couldn’t handle extra traffic during a big sale.

LOFT Response LOFT’s response to my concerns voiced on social media Sunday night came on Monday morning–hours after the end of the sale–and instead of addressing the issue through that medium, they directed me to call an associate. Around the same time, I received a tone-deaf email advertising a 60% off flash sale email.

LOFT Flash Sale 07142014

I should note that the social media team at LOFT seems to be responsive to customers on its Facebook page. It’s true that I was disappointed that, instead of addressing the problem through social media, LOFT directed me to contact them by phone–an extra step that I didn’t want to take–but their team is just doing their job.

The real problem lies in the fact that marketing, product delivery and customer service aren’t strategically aligned.

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Where Do You Draw the Line on Data?

SharpPencils_MFIs a national conversation brewing about how companies use consumer data?

In case you missed it, on June 17 the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) published the results of a January 2012 experiment, in which Facebook Data Scientist Adam Kramer, along with Jamie Guillory of the University of California, San Francisco, and Jeff Hancock, of Cornell University, manipulated Facebook’s news feed to provide some users with content that was emotionally positive or emotionally negative to see if this resulted in a correlating reaction by the user. Kramer, in a Facebook post, clarified the research, saying, “we care about the emotional impact of Facebook and the people that use our product.

Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has so far been silent on the matter, but today the Wall Street Journal reported that COO Sheryl Sandberg said:

This was part of ongoing research companies do to test different products, and that was what it was; it was poorly communicated.”

“And for that communication we apologize. We never meant to upset you.

The apology is a bit “I’m sorry if I offended you”, but if my own Facebook feed is any indicator, the social media giant will be OK. At any given moment you can read the results of my friends’ latest BuzzFeed quiz on their spirit animal or where they should go on a time machine. (Guess what? BuzzFeed is using your data too.)

I don’t know if it’s indicative of my generation–I’m firmly in the middle ground between Gen X and Gen Y–but I typically don’t get bent out of shape about how my data is used. Data is a part of my daily life, and I know the old Economics 101 credo–“There’s no such thing as a free lunch”. Facebook has to benefit from its user base. And data is really, really valuable.

But Facebook wasn’t transparent about how the data was used.

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What Can Banks Learn from the Waffle Taco?

Taco Bell is testing a waffle taco, a product (I will not call it food) that gives me the creeps. While it might be your idea of a good breakfast, the thought of mystery sausage wrapped in a waffle from Taco Bell is just wrong.

Cleverly so.

This is a country that treats the annual return of the McRib like a celebration. College and high school kids will line up in droves for this. Based on the wild success of the Doritos Locos Taco, Taco Bell could have another hit on its hands.

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Banks Pay More Per Click

From Wordstream, a search marketing firm:

The most expensive niche groups paying for the most costly keywords are industries with very high lifetime customer value; the most costly AdWords keywords exist in industries where the customer pay-off is considerably high. Ultimately, the amount of money insurance companies get from an individual signing up for insurance with them makes high cost per click rates worth the investment, even at $54 a click.

Where Does Google Make Its Money? [ infographic ]

Big or Small, Data is Key

BIG DATA. It’s a hot topic these days. Jim Marous has an excellent piece over at The Financial Brand on the topic, and however you define “Big Data”, Jim makes a great point:

…understanding the value of data being created today allows a bank to understand their businesses, customers, channels and the marketplace dynamics, including new sales and service opportunities.

My thoughts? It all boils down to knowing your customers (and prospects). What is important to them? What products and services are a good fit? Data that resides in silos doesn’t provide you with that big picture view you need – you need to know how your bank touches your customer base to know how to best serve them. Without the right information, you can’t make the right decisions.

I wish I could find the piece to cite, but the other day I read an anecdote about one of the ultimate missed opportunities in customer service. A man is at a very nice hotel for a three night stay. First night he requests a wake-up call for the next morning. Would you like a newspaper tomorrow? Coffee? Wall Street Journal, and tea please. Second night: Would you like a newspaper tomorrow? Coffee? Wall Street Journal, and tea please. Third night: Would you like a newspaper tomorrow? Coffee? Wall Street Journal, and tea please. The hotel offered all these great little perks, but in having to request it each time, the “specialness”, the knowledge of who that customer is, is lost.

Data – big, small, or in-between – can help your bank know your customer – and treat them like you know them too.

You’ll find another “Big Data” piece from Jeff Marsico here.

Buyers and sellers can’t agree on price in bank M&A. Results of the 2013 Bank Director/Crowe Horwath Bank M&A Survey.

Town & Country Bank of Springfield, IL has overhauled its image.

More Power to the Consumer

Do you know how your customer base wants to interact with your bank?

Yesterday I attended the Bankerstuff webinar, “Branch Transformation: Positioning Your Branch Network for the Future”. Chris Gill, Jim Flannery, and Jason Wolf of Diebold Branch Transformation Advisory Services presented some fascinating information on consumer trends.

Consumer interactions are changing. Teller transactions should decline, and ATM transactions should remain flat, by 2015. Growth will be found in online and mobile transactions, with mobile growing from 5 billion transactions in 2010 to roughly 18 billion by 2015. Additionally, consumer expectations are shifting as they interact with retailers in a variety of industries. What can you learn from retailers? How do your customers interact with you – and how do they want to interact with you?

Consumers have a lot of choice. Within the banking industry we tend to focus on the fact that the number of banks is declining, so there’s not a lot of thought put to the fact that consumers have literally thousands of banks to choose from – and that doesn’t even include the “non-bank” financial products on the market, like Bluebird. Diebold Branch Transformation Advisory Services found that 64% of consumers select a financial services provider based on the brand’s reputation. How are you strengthening your brand?

The branch isn’t dead.

  • 67% of consumers still prefer to go to the branch to make a deposit.
  • 53% prefer the branch for problem resolution.
  • 73% want to open an account, and 67% want to apply for a loan, in a branch.

The trend in the industry – the call for branch transformation – tends to focus on having a more specialized staff, with a shift in the branch from a transactional center to a service & sales hub. Banks may have to guide those consumers that still want to use the branch for transactional matters, like deposits, in order to create a more profitable branch system. Offering the right mix of branch, mobile, and online banking will help lead these consumers to choices that could be more convenient and better meet their needs – and help the branch become more streamlined and profitable.

Keep an eye on the young ‘uns. Gen Y’s and Millenials will hold the most spending power by 2017, and will conduct 40% of transactions. While only 33% of consumers consider mobile banking important when choosing a financial provide, 49% of Gen Y consumers, and 39% of Gen Z, do. But don’t discount the branch: 56% of Gen Z and 58% of Gen Y still consider the number and location of branches when choosing a bank. Where will these customers transact with you? Where will the relationship be? Are you offering the right mix of web, mobile, and branch?

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PwC Financial Services Managing Director, Nate Fisher, highlights how banks can align their pricing structure by using data from customer preferences.

Mike Branton of StrategyCorps shares how to put the retail back in retail checking.