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Supporting the Social Traveler

by Jack Hojnar

On a recent trip to visit relatives more than 2,500 miles away, my wife and I encountered a series of unfortunate travel events.

Our originating flight returned to the gate right before take off to address mechanical issues. The delay would be long enough that we’d miss our connecting flight. My wife raced from the plane to the nearest available ticket counter while I gambled and sat in the terminal and tweeted: “@UAL … going to miss connecting flight. Need Help.”

Within 60 seconds United responded.

Within 15 minutes we had a new flight (on a different airline), that required us to stay overnight.  Problem solved before my wife was tended to in the long line at the airport counter.

But now our luggage wasn’t going to make the flight to our overnight stay location. It would, however, make it to our original destination.

So this time I sent a tweet to our bank, asking for help – concierge services, hotel stay (the airline could not book the hotel), extra clothes, toiletries, etc. Again, before boarding our new flight we had a hotel, basic necessities for the hotel and a ride to and from the airport.

The next morning, again using twitter, I posted: “@UAL. Need to make sure bags made it to Seattle. Help”

Within 10 minutes, United found our luggage and all was good.

More than ever, consumers – which are bank customers, too – are solving problems, searching for information, discovering discounts and arranging flights all through Social Media.

But how?

Call centers today are equipped with software, like Sysomos and Radian 6 (SalesForce.com). These software tools essentially scan all types of platforms from blogs to Twitter to Facebook and more. With pre-established rules and keywords in place, these tools will find customer conversations (often complaints …) and allow companies to respond instantly.

For most banks, solving problems like the airline example above are a bit more difficult. Sensitive account information is not something often shared in Social Media. However, banks should be prepared to engage customers wherever customers want to engage.

In a recent cbsi Services Customer Service Poll, more than 80% of respondents stated that Benefits were promoted only via disclosures and that less than 7% of those respondents used Social Media to even discuss Benefits. Yet, consumer expectations are rising, the growth of Millennials and their expectations are increasing and Social Media does not appear to be disappearing.

Furthermore, a research document from Lithium Technologies, the leader in Social Customer Experience, unveiled research that shows consumers will reward brands that harness Twitter’s power to meet their rising expectations, while punishing those that fail to respond in a timely way.

“Customers have high expectations for a quick response: 53% who expect a brand to respond to their Tweet demand that response comes in less than an hour,” according to the Lithium-commissioned study by Millward Brown Digital. That figure skyrockets to 72% when they have complaints.

So what can Banks and Financial Institutions do to support Social Media expectations while avoiding the risk associated with highly-sensitive bank information?

Use Social Media to promote and discuss Benefits.

More customers expect random surprises from the brands to which they are loyal, especially via Social Media. Additionally, most Transaction Account holders are unfamiliar with Benefits that can provide real solutions in times of trouble or need.

Travel Benefits such as Travel Emergency Assistance provide near-instant relief to travelers stuck in emergency medical situations. By promoting and offering Social Media channels as a means to address benefit issues, Banks and Financial Institutions are reaching customers where they spend time: on their mobile devices.

In that same study from Lithium Technologies, the impacts of a positive Social Media experience are undeniable. For companies that offer and respond to Social Media, particularly Tweets, within 30 minutes realize an increase in Customer Satisfaction:

  • 34 percent are likely to buy more from that company;
  • 43 percent are likely to encourage friends and family to buy their products
  • 38 percent are more receptive to their advertisements
  • 42 percent are willing to praise or recommend the brand through social media

As card customers and transaction account holders move from aging Gen-Xers to mobile Millennials, the role of Social Media will undoubtedly increase. Though not as obvious, consumer choices for card spend and usage can be immensely affected by a bank’s ability to address consumers within every available media. More than ever, implementing and managing a Social Media strategy is critical toward Customer Engagement, Experience and Loyalty.