Social customer service: how banks can offer better support

As we discussed at the end of last year, some banks are making use of the more private social channels to communicate with customers and offer help and support. Our latest Insight Series report, Customer Servicing on Digital Channels, postulates that banks will continue to experiment with a diverse range of social platforms in order to answer customer queries and resolve issues.

BBVA in Spain and ABN AMRO in the Netherlands have both trialled offering customer support via WhatsApp, letting people speak to advisors, find out about new products and services, and get advice. Snapchat is also being tested (by ABN AMRO as well as Société Générale) as a way to communicate with customers, offering tips and tricks for young people – the channel’s target audience.

ABN Amro Whatsapp

Can Facebook and Twitter keep up?

The more established ‘social support’ channels like Twitter and Facebook are putting increased effort into their private messaging functionality, with Facebook Messenger establishing itself as a standalone app that will soon offer ecommerce, advertising and customer service features.

However, with the race on to commercialise these sections of social platforms, Econsultancy writer Patricio Robles comments that too many changes to accommodate businesses may make users stop using the messenger channels. “After all, if people become aware of the fact that their customer service interactions are what allow for ads to be delivered to them via Messenger later, they might avoid using Facebook for customer service altogether.” Forbes magazine notes that advertising within Messenger “could go incredibly well or very badly, depending on whether users find it off-putting to see advertisers invading an area they traditionally associate with family and friends.”

Facebook messenger

Image: Facebook

Meanwhile, WhatsApp appears to be establishing itself as a perfect alternative. It has ruled out the option of brand’s advertising on through the app, and announced yesterday that people can talk ‘freely and securely’ on the platform thanks to the introduction of end-to-end encryption. Could Facebook Messenger and the others be left behind by privacy-conscious customers? Facebook has suggested that it would add ‘secret conversations’ and encryption technology to the messenger app, but this would only be to facilitate digital payments, rather than truly private messaging.

Certainly, moving away from customer support, people are getting used to the idea of using social media to make and receive payments (at least in the US). Platforms and third parties are combining communications with payments, potentially making these social channels even more appropriate for banks to get more involved with.

Looking beyond financial services

This private approach to customer service clearly works well for industries like financial services. However, the privacy, personal touch and potential for an immediate response to important questions means there are certainly other industries where WhatsApp, Snapchat and other instant messaging services could prove popular for customer support.

For example, where customers want to enquire about sizing for personal items such as underwear, or what the ingredients are in a particular medication, or if they have conversations with retailers involving their address, password or account details, a private messaging application – particularly where you can keep all the information in one thread – is beneficial to both parties.

Indeed, ‘conversational commerce’ is an emerging trend, where a two-way dialogue on social channels actually aids selling and retention. Shopify predicts that the ongoing enhancements to Facebook Messenger will aid product discovery, payments, order status tracking and ongoing assistance – thus providing end-to-end support for customers.

Econsultancy notes that live chat is the customer service method with the highest satisfaction levels among customers (73%), although it isn’t used as frequently as other methods (email and phone being the most popular). If the leading social channels were used by brands to offer a similar live chat experience, via direct message, would that too increase people’s likelihood to make a purchase? It seems likely.

Whoever uses these channels for customer support should also be aware of the next potential trend in this area: chatbots, who can answer queries for you and cut down on the manual intervention required.

Looking further afield

China’s WeChat platform is the most popular social messaging app in the country, with over 600 million users. It’s also a shining example for Facebook-owned Messenger and WhatsApp, as it has become the ‘go-to app’ for a range of services, from playing games to meeting people to ordering a taxi.

WeChat Payment

Image: TechInAsia

As Clickz reports, brands like KLM are integrating WeChat with CRM systems to provide agile, responsive customer support over the private channel. WeChat allows users to make payments, with peer-to-peer service WeChatPay, and is being used by many Asian banks as a communication and support channel.

WeChat could handle more than £380 billion this year, according to Reuters. Business Insider notes that, “This figure only includes money sent via WeChat’s P2P payment service, and not the other payment types it facilitates such as taxis, online media and restaurant bills. That means the total figure will likely be much higher.”

The best channel for customer support?

Our Customer Servicing on Digital Channels report looks at how banks are innovating to provide customers with the right support in the right place at the right time. One trend Mapa highlights is this move to more diverse social channels, but this may not always mean opting for private messaging apps over public forums.

Tesco Bank, for example, has been trialling a self-built ‘social network’ for customer support, called ‘Your Community’.

As the Financial Brand notes, customers often reach out to brands on Twitter or Facebook precisely because they are public forums; knowing they will be seen and could impact the brand’s reputation, consumers ‘jump to the front of the queue’ by venting their frustrations openly.

Of course, any interactions on public social networks are swiftly moved to private channels anyway, and this is where the smart use of WhatsApp, or Facebook Messenger, could come in handy.

Mapa Research Analyst Katrina Elliott comments:

“Live chat on websites is a well established approach for banks, but taking the same idea to social channels, the platforms where people spend their lives, is a reasonable next step – but the key is keeping the interactions secure, responsive, and using each channel appropriately.”

“It makes sense for financial institutions to trial new social channels for customer servicing by making the most of the unique feature of each platform, such as heightened privacy, to differentiate themselves from other financial players and challenger banks. If it adds to the convenience for the customer, and can integrate seamlessly with other support channels, then it’s probably a good idea.”

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