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Archive for February, 2012

The online customer advocacy revolution

February 8, 2012 Leave a comment

Two weeks back at work with annual planning time kicking off and it really feels like the year has well and truly underway. But I’ve still got a few hazy memories of our sunny Coromandel holiday and a couple of things from that have stuck in my mind: One was just how much better the weather is up there than windy, rainy Wellington; and the second was more related to my day job – and that was how much our family holiday relied on online.

Cathedral Cove, Coromandel

Sun kissed Coromandel beach

Just about every place we stayed in or ate at we had checked out via apps like Trip Advisor and based our decisions on user comments and reviews; I navigated the entire way with Google maps (it only led me slightly off track once near the Kaimai Range…); days out were governed by weather or tide updates; at Napier Aquarium we used an interactive video tour; and we even received updates on the how the cat and the rabbits were doing back home thanks to PetAngels.co.nz!

I could understand some thinking that the above list sounds a bit like technology overload on a holiday – but in fact it made our holiday one of the best ever.  None of it got in the way of tramping, sightseeing; snorkelling, swimming or just snoozing on the beach. Instead it was like travelling with a native of each place we visited – who knew all the best beaches, routes; restaurants; local history or holiday houses. Yeah, the weather helped too – and I haven’t found an app for recreating that in Wellington…

My holiday made me wonder – with the increasing adoption of smartphones – how long before this online advocacy becomes a truly mass-market activity. It doesn’t take much of a mental leap to move from trusting other vacationers about holidays to trusting bank, insurance, investor customers about what organisation has the best deal – or more importantly – who has the best service.

Online forums such as Trade Me are more and more asking questions like “Which is the best bank?” and people are making big decisions based on what others say. We have always asked others for advice but now online, particularly online in the palm of your hand, makes this so much easier and faster to get an aggregate view of an organisation or a brand.

Google now includes reviews and ratings in many search results – so an organisation can say what they like on their website, but their search results will contain the real truth that potential customers want to know. As the thought leader in banking innovation Brett King says: You can’t game this. It’s a massive challenge to traditional online marketing.

At Kiwibank we haven’t been idle while this online customer advocacy has been evolving. We’re out there engaging and supporting customers on Facebook and Twitter.

And we’ve also started rolling out our own online customer advocate – an Online Relationship Manager to customers.

Kiwibank Online Relationship Manager

Online Relationship Manager

The idea behind the Online Relationship Manager is to create a customer champion within the bank who combines the convenience of an internet service with the benefits of a real person – putting the person back into online personal banking.

The Online Relationship Manager is available through internet banking secure mail. They take the time to get to know and understand customers, and help them achieve their short and long-term goals. Contact is as hands on or off as customers wish.

The Online Relationship Manager has the authority to make things happen quickly. If they can’t help, they make the resources and expertise of Kiwibank specialists – such as in home loans and lending – available to meet the customer’s need.

The online customer advocacy revolution means the customer is in control now more than ever before. The risks for businesses that don’t get this are clear – but the opportunities to those who get it right are massive and exciting.

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