Reviewed and written by Jeff Stephens, CEO/Creative Brand Communications
San Antonio-based USAA Savings Bank, which provides financial services to military personnel and their families, recently ended two months of weekly sweepstakes to promote their new Member 2 Member forum. Within USAA’s website, members can use the Member 2 Member forum to ask and answer questions, ask for help, and to share their USAA banking experiences with one another.
MEMBER 2 MEMBER
Questions and answers by members for members. You must be a USAA member with a registered online account in order to write reviews or ask questions. USAA employees (who are also presumably members) frequently step in to answer questions about the bank’s products. (Note the “Compare” tab, which stacks USAA up against key competitors like Navy FCU.)
Those who posted questions or commented during the sweepstakes period (August 29 through October 31) were entered to win a USAA iPod shuffle or $200 Apple Store gift card in a weekly drawing. Members received one contest entry per post, so the more they interacted online, the greater their chances of winning.
While the Member 2 Member forum is only available for certain products and topics — like Personal Finances — almost every product and service offered by USAA now incorporates Member Reviews on the corresponding website page. Each product’s Member Reviews page allows members to rate the product on a five-star scale, and write/read reviews.
By default, member reviews are organized by “Rating – High to Low.”
AMERICA FIRST – RATINGS & REVIEWS
Members of this Utah credit union have been able to rate and review products at the americafirst.com website since at least February of 2008. The system is nearly identical to the one USAA recently deployed. The feature has survived for nearly two years — including a major site redesign — so the credit union clearly sees value in continuing with public ratings and reviews.
Members are definitely using the forum. Since the beginning of September, the Checking category alone has amassed over 3,100 reviews and 85 questions. Members rate USAA’s free checking product 4.8 out of five stars.
Reality Check: You’ve got to feel very confident in your products if you’re going to let people rate them publicly online. If you don’t get the ratings you expect, you’ll either get your act together…or kill the ratings/reviews feature — fast.
USAA is allowing negative reviews of its products and services to be posted, which is very important for building honest, two-way communication in today’s online world. Reviews are only useful if they include the full range of opinions. On USAA’s site, you won’t see any bad reviews unless you change the default “Sort Reviews By” setting from “Highest Rated” to “Lowest Rated.”
Most forums are organized by “Date Posted” so that one immediately encounters the most recent opinions shared. This helps present an honest — and less biased — mix of peoples’ experiences, not just the ones you want people to see.
Participation has not dropped since the sweepstakes period ended more than a month ago. Sorting reviews by date reveals that members are still regularly posting new comments, as well as asking and answering questions on the Member 2 Member pages. It proves that USAA members are passionate enough to actively comment whether they get a prize or not.
About the author: Jeff Stephens is founder and CEO of Creative Brand Communications (CBC), a full-service bank and credit union branding and marketing agency. CBC helps financial institutions find their story, tell it, and most importantly, prove it.