Standard Bank has ventured into the social media space whole heartedly – we haven’t simply opened a Facebook fan page, we have embraced all aspects of social media, including YouTube, Twitter, mobi sites and a blog. While we knew it would not be without its challenges, we also understand that if we don’t become active in this space, we will be missing out on an opportunity to get in touch with an entire generation.
We are learning as we go along and trying to be bold, but we are a bank. In fact, we are one of South Africa’s largest banks and Africa’s largest bank by market cap with over 50,000 employees and literally millions of customers around the world. With this many customers, and dealing with personal finance (a highly sensitive topic – clearly demonstrated by the @Standard_Blank twitter profile), it goes without question that by making ourselves more available to our customers with social media we are also opening ourselves up for very public, and sometimes very loud, criticisms. However, in the spirit of ensuring improved accessibility and transparency, we knew that the online space was one that we had to embrace – and this necessitated the creation of our social media campaign.
One of the recurring criticisms we have encountered since our launch last week is that we don’t listen to our customers. Through our Online Reputation Management programme that we have in place, we are learning how to listen more and how to pay better attention to our customers. All the comments have been and will continue to be noted and we can assure you that we will try to resolve those issues we can and implement whichever changes we believe will truly benefit all of our customers. However, as with all large organisations it takes time for large scale change to filter through… but we have made a sincere start and we are making a very real effort to ensure that we are in regular contact with our customers and listening to their needs.
As a financial services institution, we can advise our critics that perhaps a public, online space is not necessarily the most constructive or safest way to discuss sensitive issues such as financial difficulties. If the complaints are unspecific and anonymous, we cannot help. If there is a specific issue that you would like to raise through our social media campaign (on Twitter: @StandardBankGrp), or through any of our traditional mediums, we can help you get your issues addressed in a more private, offline conversation.
We fully support and understand consumers’ rights to freedom of expression, but we don’t have the same liberty as a corporate. Therefore we have to ensure we try to achieve a careful balance between interacting with our clients on sensitive issues in a way that respects their privacy, while still promoting and developing and in fact protecting Standard Bank as a brand and business in the public domain. Although we have been faced with negative comments, we are learning more about our clients and how we can improve our services as well as the general feeling towards our brand. We hope to get better at using social media meaningfully to improve the Standard Bank experience for our clients.