Not Your Average Bank: Customer Service as a Marketing Tool

The rise of digital and online banking has meant that the brand-to-customer experience has started to become dehumanized, as consumers have been relying less and less on the traditional “over-the-counter” service.

These changes have partly cause, and partly been caused by the widespread closure of physical banks: 348 branches closed in 2013 in the UK alone, following over 2200 closures in the US the year before.

However, banks doing nothing to remedy this decreased level of personalised interaction could suffer a major dent to their customers’ satisfaction.

Therefore, the challenge for financial brands is to revive the personal aspect of their customer experience – and social media fits this remit perfectly.

A well-managed social media presence can indeed act as not just a solution to this problem, but a genuine opportunity for competitive advantage.

Social media grants banks, insurance providers and other financial services companies the opportunity to rekindle relationships with customers and re-establish their brand character.

Nevertheless, in the financial industry, another challenge faced when approaching this opportunity is the difficulty in providing helpful services while complying with sometimes vague regulatory guidelines, which often seem to prevent social teams from expressing much character or personality.

Another challenge is balancing speed of response with effectiveness of resolution: the chart below outlines that resolving online customer complaints is not everything; promptness can be just as powerful.


Simple: the “virtual” bank

One of the use cases that our recently released report “Social Listening & Financial Services: An industry snapshot” looks into, is Simple.

Simple is a Portland-based banking company, which does not have any physical bank branches or automated teller machines and consequently, customers must solely rely on the internet and phone for service.


Nevertheless, they use social media and other digital communication to their advantage.

Simple provides online and mobile tools to help users manage their funds and its online banking interface integrates hashtag searching, easing the customer’s process of finding information, getting help or making a complaint.

The jargon-free and customer-first nature of this approach is mimicked on social media, where the company is unusually personable, friendly and human.

Social media strategy

Simple’s social media strategy focuses on informal customer service. Support teams, which are thoroughly trained but not given any scripts, are encouraged to be themselves and serve customers in the most human, natural way possible.

Additionally, they write in plain English and avoid jargon and legalese as much as possible.


Does it work?

The strategy seems to be working as there’s now a two-year waiting list of new customers for its invite-only services, and the company has registered a rapid rate of growth: at the end of 2013, Simple reported processing on average around 13 debit transactions per minute with an overall customer balance of $64 million. Not bad for such a young business.

This focus on personal, character-driven customer care has also helped them achieve fanatical advocates, which contribute to the growth and engagement of the Simple online community, further amplifying the reach and the reputation of the brand.

Our advice on using social media monitoring to handle online customer service successfully:

  • Create flexible but compliant protocols for the customer support team to follow when responding to customers.

  • Keep an eye on customer comments beyond your owned social profiles (it’s not all about Twitter) and respond to them efficiently.

  • Implement enterprise-grade social media monitoring and engagement technologies that offer workflow functions, allowing multiple teams and functions to respond to customers in the most relevant way.

If you’re interested to read more about the Simple case study and four other practical advantages of social data usage in the financial services sector, you can download the full report for free here.

We’d love to hear what you think!