The banking industry’s reputation got clobbered during the Great Recession. While financial services’ image rebounded somewhat, surveys now show that it is sliding again.
Causes include data breaches, systems failures, and poor customer experiences. Indeed, social media makes it easy for unhappy consumers to share unfortunate in-branch and other experiences through online reviews and attacks that bring out more anger from fellow posters, with potentially massive reach.
Star ratings have been dropping significantly among some well-known banking brands, according to industry data. Given such indications as Adweek’s finding that 93% of Millennials say they rely on blogs and customer reviews before making a purchase, low star ratings and poor online reviews about wait times, branch personnel competence, and parking and account-related fees clearly harm reputations of individual brands as well as the industry.
How can financial marketers reverse this trend? And potentially get ahead?
How Online Reputation Erosion Gets Fixed
Financial marketers have a clear opportunity for to easily improve ratings of their institutions online and to drive better rankings in search, more website traffic, phone calls, new accounts, and, in time, higher revenue.
That’s because, despite the prevalence of online and mobile banking, many consumers still prefer in-person interactions. Numerous studies indicate this preference. What this boils down to is that making an image comeback depends on how well financial institutions manage their reputations online, and how they use what they learn from consumer feedback to positively influence customer experience quality.
Today we live in the “Feedback Economy.” Feedback is everywhere and customers play a more active role in shaping a provider’s reputation than when word of mouth was a literal factor.
When institutions manage their online presence, they gain visibility into operational shortcomings. And, when they address these shortcomings quickly, they gain the power to significantly improve their star ratings and turn consumers into loyal brand ambassadors who will spread the good word and return themselves for new products and services.
The following practices can help.
1. Use online reviews as an advantage. Online reviews represent a goldmine of information that can help banks and credit unions identify big-picture issues that may go unnoticed in the course of daily affairs. Issues like long wait times and branch personnel problems can frequently be fixed by making operational adjustments. The faster the problems are fixed, the bigger impact it will have on an institution’s reputation — and star ratings. Banks and credit unions should consistently and expeditiously monitor and respond to both positive and negative reviews on Google, Facebook, Twitter, Consumer Affairs, WalletHub and others. This can help show consumers that the brand cares about the customer’s experience.
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2. Respond to both positive and negative reviews. Understand that the worst response to a bad review is no response. Engaging consumers drives loyalty, and much of that customer engagement can take place online, by responding to people’s concerns and showing commitment to addressing them quickly. Immediately address negative reviews by acknowledging the complaint publicly and then immediately taking the conversation offline.
Likewise, positive customer reviews should be acknowledged as well. Consequently, the next searcher will see that your brand cares enough about customers to respond.
3. Ask for reviews on Google. Banking institutions consistently sustain low review volumes. Reviews are important because institution will rank higher in Google search results with more positive reviews, and the higher they rank, the greater likelihood they’ll be selected by consumers.
Timing is very important — reviews must be fairly recent to matter. A study by BrightLocal found that two out of five consumers only take into account reviews written within the previous two weeks. Also, as Americans prefer Google for search, institutions should regularly ask customers to leave a review on Google. This helps ensure that volume is consistent and always up-to-date.
4. Create unique pages for each branch. Local branches must make sure they communicate their commitment to their community through unique pages that outline all the basics. By creating individual pages — complete with a branch photo, hours of operation, contact information, staff and services — each branch can ensure higher SEO rankings.
5. Ensure that each branch’s listing is consistently updated. Another way to influence search ranking is to make sure branch listings are updated, accurate and working — whether the branch pops up on Google, Facebook or someplace else. Part of this is ensuring that all website links are working properly, the listed phone number reaches the right person, the hours of operation are correct, the bank’s physical address is accurate and the customer can click to get directions seamlessly.
6. Leverage technology to track reputation. Hold branch and regional managers responsible for online reviews — but also empower them to make continuous improvements with tools that provide the best possible insight into customer sentiment. Technology tools that use natural language processing and artificial intelligence are the best way to understand true customer sentiment and identify areas for improvement.