Posts Tagged ‘First Direct’

Do banks need a shower in social media?

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011 by Jon Clements

Week 2 of 2011 and already UK bankers are back on the ropes in reputation terms.

Barclays boss, Bob Diamond’s appearance in front of the Treasury Select Committe yesterday is described by the Mirror’s Ros Wynne Jones as a “despicable performance”; the Telegraph’s report on Diamond’s roughing up by MPs quotes Tory, Andrea Leadsom, who trounced the banker’s claim to high levels of customer satisfaction and support for SMEs saying “the evidence doesn’t stack up”.

Elsewhere in the banking firmament this week, RBS has been fined £2.8m for what the Sun calls “shocking customer service”. And late last year, the British Social Attitudes survey showed that the public’s trust in banks as well run and managed has plummeted from 90% of people in 1983 to 19% today – a lower trust level than for the media and trade unions.

So, what are the banks to do?

Niall Harbison at The Next Web reckons that using social media provides “A great opportunity for them [banks] to chip away at their negative reputations”, citing Citibank’s launch of a Twitter feed to field customer complaints and training 100 staff to handle this new customer engagement channel.

As Harbison recognises, a general banking embrace of social media may be slow in coming, as being open is “not in their DNA”. But can banks afford to ignore the social media movement if customers are demanding better customer service and resolution of complaints?

Closer to home, one bank that has taken social media seriously is First Direct. It’s social media strategy first came to PR Media Blog’s attention in November 2009 and since then it’s embarked on open dialogue with customers in its “Talking Point” online forum and maintains a regular Twitter presence – though it appears to be a more promotional than customer engagement tool. Then again, if that’s what the customer wants, so be it.

Just a thought, but maybe reinvesting a smidgen of a banker’s bonus in genuine customer interaction via social media may lay the seeds for a resurgence in public trust and satisfaction for the banks.

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''

First Direct gets a social life

Thursday, November 5th, 2009 by Jon Clements

While the banks, collectively, may be short of friends right now, one bank is stashing away praise for its foray into social media.

First Direct – pioneers of the UK’s first telephone bank – launched its “live” site  a month ago to resounding welcomes in online places such as here and here.

So, I think we can agree that a bank providing a forum for both good and bad comments from its customers is a bold move and one to be applauded.

But another interesting dimension to this is raised in First Direct CEO, Matt Colebrook’s customer message a month on from the launch.

While he describes the social media initiative (or is it a culture change?) as “a new voice for customers”, “the right thing to do” and “overwhelming” in the response it’s generated, he’s careful to qualify this with “Clearly we can’t be all things to all people” and “we won’t be able to offer everything that’s been suggested”.

And that’s fair enough. What social media gives customers is the chance to be heard and taken, perhaps, more seriously than before as their views are not kept behind closed doors or on a private phone call but in the visible, searchable online arena. But, for businesses, there will always be a limit, as Colebrook suggests, on what’s possible and customers have the choice to live within those limits, or not.

And maybe it’s this dilemma that causes social media anxiety for some organisations: “If we engage openly in an online forum with customers, will they criticise us or ask for things we can’t possibly provide, so disappointing them and harming our brand?”

Well, if they’re unhappy, they’ll talk about your brand whether you choose to engage with them or not. So, opting for the conversation provides an opportunity to turn the detractor around. And, to paraphrase Colebrook again, you won’t please all of the people all of the time. But if can demonstrate that you’ve listened and are taking the time to explain, publicly, what you can and can’t deliver, it places you ahead of the brand that says: “This is what we sell, are you havin’ it or what?”

So well done to First Direct and let other businesses take heart: social media shouldn’t be seen as the “lynch mob online”, but an ongoing discussion between company and customer that could even – gasp – be a win-win.

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''