UBank and NAB explore the online channel

How do two banks tackle social media? Surprisingly, the focus isn't necessarily on Twitter and Facebook, nor is it about customer service.
Written by Michael Lee, Contributor

Tapping into the internet to help drive business to a bank might sound like a simple matter, but it's not just about setting up a Facebook page and it's not necessarily about customer satisfaction either.

Speaking at Bank Tech 2012 earlier this week, UBank's social media coordinator, Emma Tyler, and National Australia Bank's (NAB) general manager of digital services, Chris Smith, outlined how they were approaching social media use to help drive business.

UBank has a unique customer base: they're tech- and finance-savvy, and spend more time online than the average user. Recognising this, UBank made it a part of its online strategy to move beyond the use of Facebook and Twitter by creating a series of websites that aren't always directly related to its products, but are of interest to its customers.

"You have to think about where your consumers or where the wider market is consuming media and information," Tyler said.

These websites include a "name my home" website that UBank established with Better Homes and Gardens host Rob Palmers, and Tax Tips, a general tax advice site which UBank created with Deloitte and MLC. These sites target existing or potential UBank customers and, even though in some cases there was limited UBank branding on the sites, Tyler said they have resulted in an uptick in sales by helping build awareness of its business.

Another piece of the puzzle for UBank was determining whether its products are actually what its customers want. UBank set up a site using UserVoice, an online feedback and help desk tool to gauge customer satisfaction and learn what additional features UBank should look at implementing.

"Being able to show the data back to the product teams and rest of the business, to show this is what customers really want, ... where we could be making more money, or ... insight that [we] haven't thought about, is, I think, a massive benefit to brand," Tyler said.

However, later in the day, NAB's Smith said that customer satisfaction may no longer be the biggest lever for loyalty, but rather having simple processes, which makes it easy for customers to use or change services.

"Customers hate [when] you go in, you fill out an online application, you've been a customer for 20 years and it's like the bank doesn't even know who you are: 'I've banked with you for 20 years, you think you could pre-populate my name!' No, and that's what fires people off and drives disloyalty."

Smith said that, in terms of predicting loyalty, more recent industry views were showing that the traditional metric of customer satisfaction, CSAT, was now the worst. He said the Net Promoter Score (NPS) was better, but the newer Customer Effort Score (CES) was the most effective, supporting his case for a greater focus on simplicity, not satisfaction.

To further drive his point home, Smith shared his own frustrations with using NAB's automated hotline to make changes to his card details.

"They said, 'please enter your telephone banking password'. I said, 'my telephone banking password? No frickin' idea. I never use telephone banking! I use internet banking like four times a day. Could you ask me that?'"

As a result, NAB is now looking at using voice biometrics, where a user simply has to state their name in order to make the process much simpler.

UBank is also looking for ways to make life easier for its customers. As an online business, it could centralise its information on its website, but instead, it reaches out to customers.

"Consumers are really time-poor nowadays ... which is why we offer customer service through channels that they're already spending time in [such as Twitter and Facebook]. We really don't see the benefit in forcing our customers to come to UBank.com.au or give us a call," Tyler said.

To support its business through social means, UBank has a team of nine, which respond to customers through Facebook, Twitter, email and online chat. The "UCrew" have acted as a form of pilot for UBank, and the lessons learned by the team are now being rolled out to the entire organisation so that all staff can provide a consistent form of support for customers, regardless of what communication channel is used.

At NAB, too, Smith said things needed to change when it came to providing support for customers, offering a glimpse into what NAB was considering to shift queries from expensive call centres, towards more affordable and automated self-service portals.

Smith was guarded about what he could reveal, but said that, theoretically, in the future, a user could call the bank for help while on their smartphone. However, instead of an employee picking up the call, the bank's smartphone application would step in and provide the user with an interactive way of solving their problem, all on their device's screen.

"Being able to disrupt that call as it comes in, and use of the smartness of your phone is another big area that we're looking at."

Mobile payments

Tyler said that Ubank was paying close attention to Commonwealth Bank's Kaching app, something UBank would love to be doing, but had decided to wait for the reaction from the early adopters of the technology.

"Peer to peer [payments] is something that, definitely, we're looking at, at the moment," Tyler said.

"[Ubank] general manager Alex Twigg really believes that we'll probably have no website in the future; that we will allow customer service through Twitter, and making payments with peers though Facebook."

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