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July 10, 2011, 5:12 am UTC
Citibank has gone live on social web, raising hopes that other banks too would follow in the interest not just of their clients, but also branding
They seem the perfect misfit – social media and the Indian banking sector. What else can you say in a country where half the population does not have bank accounts? But with the number of people in the country on the internet, and more importantly on social media rising, it is one area that the Banking sector cannot ignore for long, especially considering that the 50% mostly rural Indians not in the banking radar, are also not on the internet, which is another way of saying that a large section of those who are using banks, are also on the internet and on social media.
Earlier this year, one of the largest banks in the world, Citibank, became the first bank to not only go extremely active on social media, but also became the first bank to address customer complaints on Twitter itself, something that brands in other sectors have been doing for some time. This may seem like a small step in general terms considering that most companies in most other sectors had crossed the bridge long back, but if one were to consider the banking sector, this is one giant step. The reasons are simple.
Generally the relationship between a customer and his or her bank is rather skewed. An individual mostly corresponds with the bank only when he or she has some financial need. On the web space, beside banking services, the same customer would interact with the bank, only if he or she has a problem. That is the reason why most banks globally had refrained from using social media, as that ends up empowering the consumer about the bad services of a particular bank. But, there is a drawback to it.
In today’s world, whenever a customer has anything to know about any company, one can do a general internet search on the phone itself. Hence, if a consumer were looking to open an account with a particular bank, one would naturally check the bank out on the web. Thus, any problems any customer had about any bank, is already out there on the web, driving potential customers. Thus, the point of hiding the problems and glitches is actually counter productive. Instead, what social media gives banks is an opportunity to concentrate on winning customer confidence by providing a one point interface to solve their problem. One might even call the bank’s social media outlet on Twitter or Facebook a customer complaint redressal system. And why not, when a new customer sees that past complainants have been taken care of, the response of people towards the bank is one of positivity. The world has come a long way from the time when all problems where swept below the carpet by brands. Instead we have a world where the customer knows that there are problems, but want speedy redressal of the same.
This does two things, not only does it show the confidence of a particular bank about its services, but also creates a certain USP for the bank as compared to others, especially in the minds of the urban, tech-saavy consumer. Thus, though banking has been one of the last industries to go live on social media, that someone has taken a lead – Citibank – would sooner or later force the other banks to go live on social media to, of not leverage on an opportunity, then to negate the USP of a competitor. And that is good news for the customer.
Twitter or Facebook is not the only social interaction that a bank can have with their clients to enhance their experience. Citibank has gone live on Youtube as well, where they post videos and interviews of their top executives. And the group has begun a blog too, a move that may sound ancient especially to tech companies who have been officially blogging for a decade now, but for the banking sector represents a major step in customer satisfaction.
What is important for banks is to understand that an individual’s relationship with banks is one of utmost trust. When a person entrusts a bank with his or her money, she gets into one of the highest levels of trustful relationships in his life that often outlasts his normal everyday relationship. Hence, going all out to ensure that that trust is returned is not just an option, but should be a mandate for banks. And in the age of internet proliferation, one of the best ways to do that is through social media.
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