(Source: Mint, New Delhi)By Aveek Datta &, Mint, New Delhi
April 07–Acouple of years ago, a customer would need to dial a number and encounter an emotionless interactive voice response system to file a complaint with a bank.
If that tested one’s patience, one would go to a bank branch and wait endlessly for a customer service executive.
Now, if a customer is unhappy with a bank, all she needs to do is drop in a line on Twitter, and wait for the bank to get back.
After retail chains and consumer goods firms, Indian banks have caught on to the benefits of having a presence on on-line social networks to connect with customers, and are increasing their visibility on these platforms.
Private sector banks such as HDFC Bank Ltd, ICICI Bank Ltd, Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd and Yes Bank Ltd have a presence either on Facebook or Twitter, or both.
India has over 50 million Internet users, while Facebook has 22 million users. At last count, Twitter had 4.5 million users.
From registering a complaint to engaging customers in discussions on cricket, these pages serve many purposes.
ICICI Bank, for instance, has a Twitter handle where customers can write in with their queries. In most cases, the bank recognizes the customer’s complaint and asks for a contact number, promising that an executive would get in touch.
The bank also uses the handle to share information such as holidays when the bank would be closed.
“We have a dedicated resource to manage it (the Twitter handle) and reply as soon as possible. Like with other technology-led initiatives, a part of the service maybe outsourced,” an ICICI Bank spokesman said.
HDFC Bank has two Twitter handles to engage with customers. One is used to announce new products and services and ascertain spending habits of customers, while the second is for registering customer complaints. HDFC’s Facebook fan page aims at engaging its 11,000 members on topics such as cricket and Bollywood. Both the initiatives were launched in August last year.
“Increasingly, customers seem more comfortable interacting on social forums rather than on email,” Kavita Joshi, senior vice-president and head of digital marketing at HDFC Bank stated in an email.
Since the conversation with customers on these sites is in the public domain, it helps reiterate the banks’ commitment to quality service, which helps the brand, Joshi said.
Shalini Mehta, executive vice-president of consumer banking at Kotak Mahindra, stated her bank is working on a social media policy and its six associate financial companies.
Kotak Mahindra would have two different Twitter handles –one for marketing new products and another for customer redressal–apart from the Facebook page it launched in August. “A speedy response to grievances is absolutely essential and we would have senior people empowered to take decisions on complaints received online,” Mehta said.
Many banks are also using the social media space as an extension of their tv and print campaigns.
Anindya Datta, chief marketing officer of Yes Bank, stated the bank was using Facebook, Twitter and Youtube to run one such campaign where customers are invited to share their experiences with the bank and how it had made a difference to them.
“A lot of banks have also been putting up their tv commericals for dissemination on websites such as Youtube,” stated Deep Sherchan, co-founder of InRev Systems Pvt. Ltd. Bangalore-based InRev Systems has developed a software called Simplify360, which monitors social media engagement for brands. “Though on-line social networks may not help banks generate additional business directly, it would help in creating brand awareness,” Sherchan said.
Private banks in particular are using this platform aggressively as soon they will have competition from a new set of banks equipped with technology and newer modes of communication with customers.
Both customer acquisition as well as retention will be the biggest challenge for existing banks when new banks get the regulator’s nod to set up shop.
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Copyright (c) 2011, Mint, New Delhi
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