Online Reviews Reveal Blind Spots in Banking Transformation Strategies

Like 'em or hate 'em, marketers can't ignore consumer reviews in the digital age. You may even want to encourage them as a part of your customer acquisition strategy. Managing reviews does require continuous commitment, including weeding out fake reviews and responding appropriately to positive and negative reviews, but doing so can offer valuable opportunities to support consumer needs.

With digital banking becoming the predominant form of customer interaction, it’s essential that financial institutions offer consumers the resources and tools they need to make informed choices. Online reviews have become an essential element of the consumer online journey, providing potential customers with the information they need to effectively evaluate their options.

According to a survey by BrightLocal, 82% of consumers read reviews for local businesses — from what local auto repair shop has the best service and pricing to what restaurant offers the best Thai takeout. With something as important as money, reviews should be a fundamental component of a financial institution’s acquisition and relationship management strategy.

Ratings and reviews are key to establishing consumer confidence, especially among younger consumers. The same BrightLocal survey found that 91% of consumers between the age of 18 to 34 are big believers of online reviews, trusting them as much as personal recommendations. Millennials and Generation Z are less susceptible to — and even skeptical of — traditional advertising, so ratings and reviews offer a unique opportunity to connect with these desirable younger audiences and develop meaningful connections.

The number of reviews you receive matters, too — the more reviews, the more credible the claims may appear. But even with just five reviews the likelihood of a product purchase increases by 270%, according to Spiegel Research Center. This provides reason to incorporate ratings and reviews even on a small scale to support your marketing strategies.

While actively managing reviews requires continuous commitment, it offers valuable opportunities to highlight positive experiences and mend potentially damaged relationships.

Encouraging Reviews and Effectively Managing Them

There are many places that consumers can write reviews about your bank or credit union. They may offer them up freely, or they may need a little nudging. As a business initiative, your institution may decide to simply start requesting reviews from consumers, perhaps on the top three review sites — Google, Facebook and Yelp respectively — or even on your website via a secure form.

While this can generate positive results, it does require a more manual approach to monitoring and management. It’s essential to respond appropriately in a timely manner, which might involve thanking someone for sharing a positive experience, or resolving a negative one. Third-party solutions, such as TrustPilot and Birdeye, can help financial institutions automate the process by requesting reviews, receiving notifications for relevant activity, and responding to all on a user-friendly centralized dashboard.

It’s common to want to avoid negative feedback online. However, frustrated consumers often take to public forums regardless. With proper monitoring and management, financial institutions can offer enhanced service that may save an existing customer relationship, while demonstrating to potential customers that you care and take responsibility to make things right. In fact, 45% of consumers say they’re more likely to visit a business that responds to their negative reviews, according to ReviewTrackers.

Highlighting Positive Feedback

As your bank or credit union obtains positive feedback, you’ll want to find a way to share that with other consumers. Many third-party review solutions offer integrations and options that allow your bank or credit union to easily showcase reviews on your website and social platforms. This might be through dynamic feeds, banners or other mechanisms. Most allow for standard color customizations for brand consistency, as well as other alterations depending on specific needs and development capabilities. An important consideration is to understand if the solution allows you to display ratings with only a certain number of stars, to ensure that you are putting your best foot forward where it matters most.

“Not only do ratings and reviews generate trust among consumers, but they also increase trust among search engines.”
— Brenna Kelliher, ZAG Interactive

With the appropriate level of authorization, individually collected reviews can also be shared across brand channels, too. This gives financial institutions a bit more control over the specific reviews that are shared, but also requires a little more work. While you might not have a fancy feed, you can leverage an existing promotional space, or even introduce new real estate to incorporate them seamlessly onto a homepage, relevant product pages or even a campaign landing page to support conversion. To increase your reach and impact, you could even distribute on social media using a branded testimonial-themed image and corresponding captions that engage audiences, position solutions and link back to your website.

Supporting SEO and Local Visibility

Not only do ratings and reviews generate trust among consumers, but they also increase trust among search engines. Positive reviews can help increase your online visibility by boosting your position in local search results, as well as driving clicks and engagement to your website. Review sentiment does matter. Having a 5-star rating earns a business 39% more clicks from Google local results than having a 1-star rating, according to BrightLocal data from 2017.

Most banks and credit unions have multiple locations so it can be difficult to optimize for local SEO using an organic on-site strategy. Review and ratings present a valuable opportunity to increase awareness of individual locations. Branch-based ratings can be successfully collected and managed using the popular and free Google My Business platform, as well as other channels such as Yelp.

Reviews and requests to share experiences can be added directly into your branch pages on your website, helping to build a more robust, localized experience for the different communities in which you operate. By integrating more custom keyword-rich content, this could also support organic rankings for your website branch pages.

Identifying and Removing Fake Reviews

As valuable as ratings and reviews are, there is a need to pay close attention to authenticity. Both positive and negative reviews could have an adverse effect on consumer perception and your brand if they seem suspicious. Unfortunately, this isn’t all that uncommon, as 58% of businesses report having received fake reviews.

This is another reason banks and credit unions must diligently monitor feedback. It’s also reason to be careful about how they are requested — as certain strategies, such as offering an incentive, may increase your chances of getting inauthentic reviews or ones that generally lack quality.

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Another Option: Formal Online Surveys

To obtain in-depth feedback from customers or members that can be quantified and qualified, some banks and credit unions may choose to conduct formal surveys. When performed properly, surveys can help financial institutions understand perceptions of their brand, products, service and overall performance.

Surveys typically consist of specific questions in various formats such as multiple choice, Likert scales and more. When conducting a survey, be sure to use a solution or platform that allows for the seamless collection of responses and conversion of data into graphs or other visual representations that make the results easy to understand and draw inferences from.

Other general best practices for surveys include explaining the purpose of the survey, being transparent about how much time it will take to complete, and offering a suitable number of questions that will help you to obtain feedback but not inconvenience or irritate your audience. The easier it is, the more likely they will be to participate. It is also always a good idea to follow up with those that haven’t responded after an appropriate period of time as a reminder.

The combination of both surveys and reviews provides banks and credit unions with valuable content — from testimonials and statistics — that can be used across various channels to create positive brand impressions that can support further customer acquisitions.

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