When you think of the financial industry, what images come to mind? What is the look and feel of the industry? Is this image achieving the right level of engagement and entanglement with its audience?
In the mind of Joe Public, his picture of the finance industry might look something like this. An image associated with structure and process. The image conjures a formal feel that is heavily dominated by a sea of blue, grey and black suits. Desks are awash with important documents with long and wordy paragraphs. Notwithstanding the use of plain English in these docs, they contribute to the formal look and feel of the industry.
The image, the process, the engagement can feel distant, complicated and remote. Customers can find it difficult to compare ‘like with like’. Making comparisons between similar products is made harder when it is difficult to access the correct information. Transparency can be a real issue when a customer is trying to assess their various options in relation to a product or service.
The look and feel of any industry must now be responsive to our social play and the financial industry is no different. Web 2.0 has certainly placed business in a position to create a colourful and creative engagement with its customers.
Whilst formal documentation is a vital and inescapable requirement of the financial industry, and whilst the subject matter is of great importance and has a serious bent given the stakes involved, the processes and channels of communication do not need to de-humanise the brand.
In essence, and like any other industry, the financial industry can bring great flare to its brand and to its customers by embracing social media. And via this engagement, the customer is afforded greater transparency and better access to information, systems, processes and people, all of which impacts on the customers decision to shop and buy.
Social channels, if used correctly, can provide financial institutions with great insight into customer thinking. These insights are only available if the institution and its people are playing in the social arena. By playing in this arena, the financial institution can listen to its customer’s thoughts, views and opinions. The institution can hear first hand what is being said about a product, a service and its brand.
These social conversations are in no way filtered through third party surveys and are not prejudiced by service administrators employed by the institution to collect the information. They are a first hand account of what Joe Public actually thinks about the institution’s image and its product and service offering. Accessing these conversations help the institution respond to the needs and requirements of its customers.
The current financial market provides those financial institutions willing to engage in the halls of social with a tremendous opportunity. There is an opportunity to develop trust in a financial environment that has in recent years endured a fractured relationship with trust and integrity.
This ability to build and restore trust is associated with social’s ability to humanise the brand. Today, people don’t necessarily buy a brand. People buy the relationship with those who ‘work in the brand’.
It is important for financial institutions to humanise the people who routinely engage with the customer on a day-to-day basis. It is the ‘humanised face’ of the brand that is shared amongst friends across the social network. This is the opportunity. Selling this relationship via the social medium places the financial institution in control of the experience that its customers share with its brand.
There are some wonderful examples from around the world that show how many financial institutions are using social to connect with its customer base; examples that confirm how many are creating a new and different experience in the world of finance.
These examples all confirm that the goal posts have well and truly moved in relation to how we as a society now choose to engage. They also indicate that Joe Public’s image of a structured, stale and static industry now needs to be re-created; re-drawn and re-defined to better reflect what some institutions are doing to put more colour in their customer engagement.