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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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Why our social media strategy is just wrong

June 6, 2011 2 comments
Role of social media

Why businesses do social media

The chart above articulates, for me, the reasons why businesses, particularly financial institutions, are involved in social media. Right now we are primarily there for customer service reasons. And that’s because our customers are already there – they beat us to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter a long time ago, and we followed because we had to. We can’t not be where our customers are, and we’re reacting to their needs as best we can.

We try to gauge sentiment but, as I discussed in my previous post, the tools aren’t around at the moment to meaningfully allow us to really gauge sentiment  based on social media activity. The data is there, for sure, but it’s so vast and unstructured we struggle to make sense of it.

Most of us use social media to support our brands. Some do this really well – but most of the time we’re so pre-occupied with trying to service customers in social media we don’t step out of the reactive space and move into the leadership space. And to really support your brand well you need to be leading, not reacting.

Some of us try sales and marketing but in social media channels we generally end up giving our recipients blunt-force trauma. Standard CRM or, even worse, DM marketing techniques don’t go down overly well in social media. It’s all just too obvious and crude – like a desperate pick-up line before the slow finale at the school dance.

Current to future state Social Media

Our social media strategies need to evolve

The vast majority of business activity in social media currently is supporting customer service. And this is an unsustainable strategy based on reactivity which needs to change, fast. We need to start leading.

Businesses (and banks in particular) operate social media channels like an online drop-in centre where unauthenticated people raise issues publicly that we move to a voice channel after authentication. It’s like a front-desk where you ring a bell and get your issue rapidly dealt with as they get a not too dissimilar priority as escalations to the CEO office.

But because most of us need to authenticate customers to be able to solve their problems, dealing with a customer in Facebook or Twitter is very hard for businesses. We need to move them into an authenticated channel – “e.g. DM me your number” where we can better meet their needs.

Someone who knows this only too well is Esteban Kolsky . In this video interview (10 minutes of pretty spot on commentary) Kolsky makes some incisive statements around the conundrum of dealing with customers in social media channels.

He cites that less than 4% of complaints are resolved via Twitter.  

I paraphrase him, but his argument is: “(In Twitter) You find customers who want to complain, they would do it anyway, they just get better escalation by doing it in Twitter. I never met a customer in my life that could explain the situation in 140 characters, let alone have the problem resolved in 140 characters.”

This resonates with me and it’s a situation where a lot of us find ourselves. And I don’t believe it’s sustainable at all.

Banks, in particular,  should be leveraging the golden opportunity of social media around data and shifting the focus from 1-2-1 customer support to brand and sales supporting and gauging customer sentiment. We should be putting our business information and knowledge management teams onto this right now.

Because the biggest issue today with social media strategy is that organisations either don’t get it (admittedly less and less of them) or are managing it in a completely unsustainable way – and I think that’s most of us.

Lost without a map in the world of Social Media

June 5, 2011 Leave a comment

The trouble with Social Media for business is that there’s a lot of noise – and currently we don’t have the tools to filter this noise.

Prosumer

The Prosumer

This noise is being created by The Prosumer – the consumer who produces as much (in some cases more) than they consume. While the term Prosumer originates with Toffler in the 1970s, it’s really been the advent of web 2.0 that has given this consumer segment the ability to give full flight to their insatiable creativity.

You can only marvel at what the prosumer is accomplishing. I’ve been trawling stats for a presentation and some of them are just astounding. In fact, they’re probably more astounding now as the daily rate of increase for sites like Twitter and Facebook mean the figures below are probably already understating the case. Nevertheless it’s breathtaking:

  • Every minute: 20 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube
  • Every hour: 10.5 million songs illegally downloaded
  • 175 million registered on Twitter and 50 billion tweets in March
  • Facebook has 600 million visits a month – which translates into 300 million visits a day
  • Facebook’s total user base is equal to the 3rd biggest country in the world after China and India.
  • In New Zealand, a country of 4.4m people,  1.9m Kiwis have Facebook pages. To put that into context, here are only 2.8 million New Zealanders between the ages of 18 and 65.

I find this is the most extraordinary example of the impact of Prosumerism: In 2002 human beings created 5 Exabytes of unique information. If you want to write that it looks like this:

50,000,000,000,000,000,000

That’s 50 with 18 zeros. Not being a numbers guy I had to look up what to call such a large number and it turns out the term for something with that many zeroes is Quintillion. So, in 2002, 50 Quintillion bytes of data were created and what’s astounding is that this is more than was collectively generated by humans in the preceding 5,000 years. So in one year human beings created more data than in the previous 5,000 years.

We’re now doubling this every two years. This is the new reality and it’s Moore’s Law on anabolic steroids.

What it means for businesses trying to manage Social Media engagement is that the vast amount of data to filter is unfathomable. We are pioneers on a new frontier that’s as daunting and thrilling as any faced by humans before. Does that sound too cheesy? Well, as it may, but I truly believe that this unprecedented social interaction which has been enabled by Web 2.0 will transform our society. But only when we can actually make sense of the storm of digital noise that’s doubling every two years.

Dalrymple's early map of New Zealand

Chart of the South Pacifick Ocean Pointing out the Discoveries made therein Previous to 1764

And that’s the rub. The tools we have now to chart social media are equivalent to the maps carried by Cook in his voyages of discovery. They show us the tantalising outlines of potentially exciting and exotic continents that make us look at our world anew. But for the moment they are only tantalising outlines.