Up until recently most Australian banks have appeared purposefully unaware of the impact Social Media was creating as a customer service channel.
Australia’s bank oligopoly ensures that innovation need only move at a snail’s pace, and disruptive change allowed to be monitored, understood, and then acted on in due course. In comparasion, organisations in other industries have needed to be considerably more agile if they hoped to survive change.
I worked for a bank up until recently, and it was only in the few months preceding my resignation did I see the worm starting to turn, and senior people realise the importance planning an approach to start engaging with our customers across these non-traditional channels.
It’s fair to say 12 months ago there was considerable resistance around establishing a Twitter account, or putting up content on Youtube, but through the perseverance of some innovative people on the inside, I saw the first baby steps of us as an organisation engaging in the Social Media landscape.
Almost all the Aussie banks now have some sort of presence on Twitter or Facebook. Some are trying to use this as traditional one-way marketing tools (to minimal success). Some are just listening and hoping no-one is tarnishing their brand. Others are finally allowing customers ask questions, and actually responding back!
I thought I’d take a bit of a closer look and see who was now online, and who could be counted on to provide excellent service in this new and scary online space.
Most of the banks are dipping their toes in the water, at a minimum securing Twitter names aligned to their brand. Searching around I found the following banks tweeting it up:
A couple of noticeable absences here: While ANZ does tweet though @ANZMoneyManager & @ANZSmartPig, theses are product specific accounts, and are not enabled to answer general ANZ enquiries.
ANZ did have a more comprehensive tilt at Twitter last year – registering @ANZ_Responds – but it appears this didn’t garner much internal support as the account has now been pulled.
RaboDirect, BOQ, Citibank are generally active with announcements, but do not respond to direct client enquiries.
Suncorp, ING Direct, Bendigobank, have registered accounts, but have not yet tweeted.
The @Bankwest Twitter name has been snatched up by a squatter hoping to extract some coin in turn for handing it over. This signifies how important it is for your brand team to be vigilant around new online capabilities like this.
I was also unable to find twitter accounts for HSBC, ME Bank, St George or Adelaide bank.
For the active banks, here’s some stats around what level of engagement they are current achieving (as at November 2010)
|Handle||Active Since||Followers||Number of Tweets|
|@Westpac||8 May 2008||2,342||1,216|
|@NAB||7 July 2007||1,597||380|
|@AnzMoneyManager||15 Oct 2008||2,290||476|
|@NetBank||16 March 2010||1,382||352|
|@Ubank||19 Oct 2008||3,111||N/A|
|@RaboDirect||19 Aug 2010||722||24|
|@BOQ||18 May 2009||396||133|
|@SuncorpBank||Yet to tweet|
|@bendigobank||Yet to tweet|
|@citibankaus||Yet to tweet|
|@INGDIRECT_AU||Yet to Tweet – now removed|
So what does this tell us? Awareness is low across the board, activity is non-existant for the smaller (second-tier banks), and while the big 4 are starting to come onboard, it’s pretty ad hoc thus far.
For the three major banks (CBA, Westpac, NAB) that do engage with customers in this space, volumes of queries remain low; a couple of hundred for NAB and CBA, up to a 1000ish for Westpac. Does this indicate customers aren’t that interested in using this as a service channel? I doubt it. Let’s look at the figures for another Australian oligopoly:
|Handle||Active Since||Followers||Number of Tweets|
|@Optus||18 June 2009||6,923||16,799|
|@Vodafone_AU (& @VodafoneAU_Help)||17 Dec 2008||6,214||10,112|
|@Telstra||31 July 2009||5,899||13,706|
Locally, telcos has cottoned on to the importance of providing their customers new way to communicate across alternative channels, and are now starting to see great success communicating with customers through Twitter. From a customers perspective this means no more IVR’s to deal with, no need to perform security checks, no worrying about call volumes or whether they’re using the right email inbox – just Tweet a message and wait for a response.
Personally, I’ve had great success dealing with the Optus Social Media team, who appear to be creating a bit of a halo effect for the entire organisation, generating brand advocacy and generally improving the reputation of the entire Optus customer service proposition.
“But we’re different!” the banks will cry. True, telcos – as internet service providers – have a natural inclination to understanding how to deal with customers across the online channel, but in reality the same people who hold Bigpond accounts also hold Commbank accounts. If you provide those customers the opportunity to engage with you online, and back it up with fantastic service, the customers will soon flock.
This is evident in the launch of Australia’s (and possibly one of the worlds) most socially/online focused bank, UBank.
UBank is a direct (online only) bank experiment launced by NAB in late 2008. It was a big step for the traditionally old-world NAB brand, and certainly pushed the comfort zone for a lot of people within the business. However, despite initial reservation this has proved to be a major sucess for the NAB.
From the ground up this was a product and brand offering designed to break the mold, and a testiment to some very smart people involved in building that business. One of the key differences between this bank and others in the Australian market was the decision to focus a high degree of interaction on the social web right from the start, through presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, even attempting some really off-the-wall promotions such as engaging with customers on the OzBargain forum. This level of deep social promotion wasn’t just a first for Australian banks — it was pretty much unheard of from any service industry locally.
This same level of customer engagement remains today, and has paid impressive dividends. With a deep understanding of the social web built into UBank’s DNA, the business has generated “customer advocacy and satisfaction levels amongst the highest of any institution in Australia“.
Change is coming. Time spent on “social” websites now represents a significant proportion of our days. For an entire generation, the idea of heading into a branch to do our bank servicing is an alien concept. Yet, banks continue to fund
traditional channels exponentially higher than the budget of their direct teams. Management will rationalise this by suggesting that “no one else is doing it, so we’re in no rush”, but what they don’t understand is it’s not going to be ANZ or CBA that comes out and disrupts everything, it’s the PayPals and Facebooks that have already established the platform, have the customer base, and are ready to strike at any moment.
We need to start considering not what the banking landscape is going to look like in 15 or 20 years, but 15 or 20 months. If todays Australian financial services is to survive, the time taken for our banks understand and adapt to new innovation cannot contiue to move at a snails pace. Look inside your organisation, find the people who are able to understand these new capability(they’re probably the ones abusing your IT security policy at the moment), give them a bit of free reign. Fail quickly and learn from the mistakes. Choose to change, or choose to fail(whale).