How Social Media Closes the Physical Gap with Banking Customers

Phone and email are key components of customer service but have limitations. For banks and credit unions that know how to use it, social media can be an effective and efficient service tool that builds trust. Four best practices will enhance its impact.

With the near-term prospects questionable for consumers to simply be able to walk into a bank or credit union branch and have face-to-face conversations with tellers or loan officers like they used to, institutions must find new ways to serve, connect, and build relationships with people.

Phones are one option for providing customer service remotely, of course, but they’re staff-intensive, and many banks aren’t logistically set up for their teams to take customer service calls from home. Emails might be easier, but they can take up a lot of time, and customers expect more immediate responses to their questions and concerns. Social media is another option for quick and efficient communication that many institutions may not be using to full effect.

An active social media presence allows banks and credit unions to serve customers’ short-term needs in a way that strengthens long-term relationships, especially during a crisis. In a report from Edelman on the impact of the coronavirus on brand trust, 65% of respondents said that how brands respond during the crisis will have a huge influence on their likelihood to buy from those brands moving forward. Now is the time to put a stake in the ground as a customer service-centric institution and show consumers that you’re there for them on social media.

Years from now, they’ll remember how you went above and beyond for them when they needed it most.

4 Ways to Strengthen Customer Service on Social Media

The full economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis is unknown — to say the least. Right now, financial institutions need to turn their focus toward keeping customers and avoiding losses. If you can educate your customers, advocate for them, and serve their immediate needs, you have an opportunity to maintain and build upon your institution’s business.

Active, responsive customer service on social media is one of the few ways to have direct, one-to-one interactions with customers to provide assistance when they need it. Used properly social media can help you connect with customers, enhance your digital customer service, and be the trusted financial partner consumers need now more than ever. Four guidelines will enable this outcome:

1. Connect with customers using direct messaging. If your bank or credit union isn’t already using direct messaging on social media to communicate with customers, it’s imperative you start now. Before the pandemic, social media and online messaging were already the preferred communication platforms for a quarter of Millennials, according to Bankrate. As social distancing leads more people to interact digitally, even more are turning to direct messaging through Facebook and other social media channels.

Your customers will have pressing questions and needs during this crisis and its aftermath. Don’t leave them on hold or make them wait days or weeks for an email reply. Meet them where they already are through direct messaging.

2. Respond as quickly as possible. The speed at which you engage with consumers on social media also matters. Good customer service means quick responses. In 2018, 76% of people expected brands to respond to comments on social media, according to a survey by Clutch — and 83% expected responses in 24 hours or less. Those expectations are even higher today. As consumers turn to your Facebook or Twitter feeds — with questions, compliments, and complaints — you need to let them know you’re listening. Respond quickly with helpful information that will make them feel valued and heard.

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3. Communicate proactively around the news. The ongoing flood of negative economic news relating to the pandemic isn’t doing a lot to ease consumers’ worries — and confusion might actually add to the panic. But you can proactively communicate around the news, breaking down important financial information in ways anyone can understand.

The COVID-19 stimulus package, for instance, continues to spawn many questions. Many consumers have been wondering when they’ll be getting a check, how much it will be, whether they need to continue paying their mortgage or student loans, and more. Further stimulus measures will only bring more questions. Anticipate that your customers will be asking these and other questions, and step up to be the expert resource for helping them understand these often-complex packages.

Providing customers with the financial information and explanations they need ties directly into every institution’s values of service — but it also gives your brand a chance to stand out as a helpful partner.

( Read More: Power 100 Social Media Database )

4. Don’t forget the basics. As you’re working to respond quickly and educate customers about financial issues, make sure you don’t let the simple things slip past you. You must still provide basic information about your institution’s operations, especially as this information is likely to change.

If you’ve been providing only drive-thru services or operating on reduced hours at your branch, for instance, and that’s now changing, tell people by announcing it on social media and updating your hours of operation. Trips out of the home are more precious than ever right now, and your customers will appreciate you respecting their time and effort.

Social distancing may be the new norm, but customer service shouldn’t take a back seat to it. It’s more important than ever for you to be there for your customers in this uncertain time, and with such limited options, social media is a versatile tool for serving them.

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