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Message to Advisors: Put the 'Custom' in Your Customer Experiences

Remember when it used to feel like Big Brother was watching you when a website remembered you had visited it before? These days, one could argue it would be downright annoying if a site you signed up with didn’t remember who you are, where you live, how you want to pay and what actions you performed in the past, whether they were things you had searched or purchased.
Thanks to technology, our expectations around the customer experience have changed dramatically in just a few short years. We are more comfortable with providing information about ourselves, as long as there’s a benefit or payoff that we want. At the other end, companies are innovating the way they use that personal data to provide increasingly customized experiences, which in turn make it easier for customers to offer up even more personal information.
In Mary Meeker’s recently released 2015 report on Internet trends, she makes the case that we’re now at a point where consumers not only want, but expect experiences on their terms – getting what they want, when they want it, and how they want it. She points to several technology startups who are leveraging smartphones and GPS to provide consumers with personalized, on-demand products and services via a few taps of a mobile app. These companies are disrupting a variety of industries, including transportation (Uber, Lyft), food (Caviar, Munchery, Sprig) and travel (Airbnb). As technology startups that use data to provide an ultra-personalized, ultra-convenient experience capture more and more market share, the threat to institutional companies is real.
For financial advisors and agents, the lesson here is clear: You need to engage with your clients and prospects when they want to hear from you and how they want from you.
Consider these three tips:
1. Listen for life signals
You’re well aware that there are certain key events in a person’s life that are opportune moments to reassess their financial situation: a new child, marriage, car, living situation, educational opportunity. And thanks to social media, many people announce these changes to their social networks. Rather than leave it up to luck to be in the right place at the right time – or, worse, be in the dark altogether – build your social media presence and leverage technology to help you quickly identify these important life events happening in your social networks.
2. Be omni-channel
A big part of providing a personalized customer experience is giving them a choice in how to communicate with you. The ability to provide an omni-channel experience – where interactions move seamlessly between online and mobile SMS and phone and in-person – is increasingly important in this hyper-connected era. By being findable and available on multiple channels and platforms, the easier it is for customers to engage with you.
3. Focus on the relationship
At the end of the day, the financial services business is built on personal relationships, and that means showing customers and prospects that you’re more than just an advisor selling financial products and services. Thanks to social media and technology, you can easily share the non-professional side of your life – your interests, friends and family, community service work. You might be surprised at how many customers are happy to share the same with you.
How are you delighting your clients and prospects with custom experiences?
Related Resources:

Congratulations to Research magazine's 2014 Advisor Hall of Fame

res1214coverstorymi600-resize-600x338For nearly a quarter of a century, Research magazine has annually recognized advisors in the financial services industry who have proven to hold themselves to a benchmark of excellence worthy of remark across the industry.
Those honored have served a minimum of 20 years in the industry, have acquired substantial assets under management, have demonstrated superior client service and have earned recognition from their peers and the broader community for the honor they reflect on their profession.
Today we want to take a moment to thank and congratulate this year’s winners for their achievements:

  • Lewis Altfest, CEO and Principal Advisor, Atlfest Personal Wealth Management
  • Sally Law, Chairman and CEO, Law & Associates, Raymond James Financial Services
  • Eugene Lerner, Managing Director/Partner/Founder, The Lerner Group, HighTower
  • Robert Reich, Senior Vice President, Wealth Brokerage Services, Wells Fargo Advisors
  • Greg Sarian, Managing Director/Partner/Founder, The Sarian Group, HighTower

Learn more about the winners below and in the full article on ThinkAdvisor.
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Handling negative customer sentiment on your bank's social media pages


The below piece, penned by Hearsay Social Head of Compliance Ally Basak Russell, was originally posted on ABA Banking Journal. The article explores the nuanced and still developing world of social media for banks, particularly in regard to policy for deleting and responding to negative customer posts:

The rise of social media presents unprecedented opportunities for banks to generate mindshare, build brand loyalty, increase referrals, and ultimately sell more financial products to more customers. Last year, bank marketers scrambled to popularize Twitter hashtags that reference their brands; add social icons to their websites, brochures, and television commercials; and create lead generation tabs that lived within their Facebook pages. This year banks are creating compelling Facebook cover photos for their timelines, enabling their employees on LinkedIn, buying sidebar ads on Twitter, and optimizing their social pages for SEO.

Where social platforms and traditional customer service intersect

These tools and practices have undoubtedly set new standards for cross-channel marketing in financial services. But in my view, the power of good old-fashioned customer service remains one of the most underestimated and overlooked marketing initiatives in the banking sector. This is especially true for community, mid-sized, and regional banks, which may have limited budgets, staff, and design resources for social media and other forms of digital marketing.
Studies show that banks risk becoming irrelevant or even offensive without proper social media initiatives and staffing in place. In fact, “Predicts 2012: The Rising Force of Social Networking and Collaboration Services,” a recent Gartner study, predicts that “[b]y 2014, refusing to communicate with customers via social channels will be as harmful as ignoring emails or phone calls is today.”
By publicly servicing customers on corporate and local branch pages and Twitter feeds, banks can resolve support and service problems in a timely and efficient manner. Likewise, banks demonstrate integrity by owning up to problems and letting consumers watch them make amends.
When consumers see their peers’ issues being resolved, positive sentiment about the bank is reinforced. Customer servicing through social sites is especially powerful when positive experiences are shared, liked, commented on, or retweeted. As bank employees resolve concerns or support issues, they promote their corporate values and model their brand attributes through the tone and quality of responses.
The downside of social networks is that they also create very public forums for disgruntled customers, ex-employees, or others to criticize bank products, services, or corporate leadership. Without the right support and planning, social media sites can also cause banks to run into regulatory and legal problems, especially when employee discussions involve highly regulated financial products such as checking accounts, credit cards, and mortgages.
These risks present a bank’s social media marketing manager with a serious dilemma: To delete or not to delete posts on the bank’s social media pages. Here are some practical points on when to remove and when to respond to negative consumer posts.

Removing vs. Deleting Data

To be clear, there is a big difference between removing a post from your bank’s Facebook wall or Twitter feed and deleting social media data permanently.
After all, customer complaint reporting, FINRA Advertising and Communications with the Public, SEC Books & Records, and even Truth in Lending regulations require financial services organizations to keep records of social messaging. To meet these requirements, many banks use enterprise platform vendors to capture, archive, serialize, and retrieve complete records of social media data. (Hearsay Social is a vendor of such services.)

1. When to Delete

Some marketers would caution against deleting comments in any situation. One recent study by BNY Mellon Corporation and St. John’s University concluded that “large corporations do not generally approach negative comments as public relations opportunities, but prefer to censor or ignore critical feedback.”
However, the following situations call for removing posts from a risk management, compliance, legal, or public relations standpoint. Be sure to contact your compliance and/or legal team before deleting or responding to a consumer’s post on behalf of your bank–it is crucial that marketing staff and financial advisors alike are trained on the compliance and legal significance of social networking.
Profanity: If customers and prospects will likely be offended by viewing the post, this trumps any positive sentiment the consumer will feel toward the bank for addressing the criticism head on. Most banks choose to delete such posts and even use automated platforms to detect and automatically delete posts that contain profanities.
Discriminatory statements: Banks must also be on the lookout to delete comments that could violate anti-discrimination laws. Conversations about mortgage rates or loans could trigger fair-lending issues.
Misleading advertisements: If your bank has launched a “local” social initiative and has regional or office pages or accounts, your bank should also remove posts that could be considered misleading advertisements by regulators. For example, conversations around credit cards could violate fixed vs. variable APR guidelines. Without proper disclosures, employees could violate Truth in Lending (Reg Z) laws around interest rates or payments. Consider prohibiting the discussion of specific financial products in your bank’s social media policy.
Non-public (private) customer data: In some situations, customers will post their physical address, date of birth, social security number, phone number, or social security number on social sites. As with profanities, many banks delete such posts immediately. Maintaining customer privacy is not just a security or regulatory issue–it also makes good business sense. Private customer data on your pages are likely to attract fraud and/or spam.

2. When to respond

Thankfully, there are times when the bank and the customer can get some use out of social platforms. Care is still required.
Respectful customer complaints: When customers get answers to their questions quickly, they feel valued. Keep up the conversation until the issue gets resolved. Apologize for inconvenience. Remember that if you don’t answer customers’ questions or negative comments, someone else may. Address any negative conversations early so they do not spread. Banks can demonstrate customer appreciation by interacting with customers in their preferred mode of communication. This will be especially important as Generation Y becomes the banking industry’s core customer base. Consult legal, compliance, and risk management teams often.
Mentions of competitors: As in any industry, the social team at your bank is probably inclined to delete or ignore questions or comments about competitors’ products or services. Consider this carefully.
Consumers know that no bank will get only positive feedback on its pages. Deleting praise of, or comparisons to, competitors could actually hurt your brand by impeding perceived transparency. If no other response is appropriate, acknowledge the criticism politely and move on.

Make your approach systematic

Customer servicing on social sites is an economical, effective, and authentic way to increase customer satisfaction, brand awareness, and bank affinity without utilizing overt marketing techniques. Perhaps nowhere else are customer service, marketing, public relations, and legal/compliance so intertwined as on a bank’s Facebook or Twitter page.
Training your social media marketing team on the regulatory and legal risks of responding to and removing consumer posts is crucial to any successful social servicing strategy. By doing so, you can take advantage of the tremendous upside of social media—creating an authentic, transparent, and meaningful dialogue with your bank’s customers and prospects.