Banking on digital media


Internet banking and other automated services aim to make services at banks faster and better. P. V. SIVAKUMAR

Banks are taking to Facebook and Twitter to get through to young customers.

Bank tasks no longer have to entail a tiresome trip to your branch, at least in the big cities and metros. The days of standing in long queues to deposit some cash in your account are ending. People, especially youngsters, prefer clicking away at a few buttons to transfer cash and make payments from the comfort of their homes.

Banks, which have gone all out to project their ‘top class’ service and ‘low’ interest rates, are trying to get at this little pie of the demographic dividend. This young population has decent income at its disposal and craves better, faster service, and what way to reach them better than where they spend most of their time – on the Internet.

Realising this, some banks have increased their presence on social media. It is the young and the savvy that the banks crave even as they struggle to raise their deposits and entice customers to spend more through their channels.

Kartik Jain, Head - Marketing, HDFC Bank, says, “We have to be present where our customers are ... and customers are increasingly present on social media, voicing their views, opinions and engaging with others.”

ICICI Bank, for instance, has created several offerings on Facebook – a bank account app, a money personality app, a deal-of-the-day offers sections and offers on banking products/services.

A nice-looking logo and an emotional tagline, though important, has started to get primitive. The young want to be served. They want somebody to listen to their demands. Loyalty is as good and as limited as the service of the bank itself.

‘Deciding battleground’

In fact, banks have taken to social media, especially to Facebook, in a big way. Figure this: India’s largest private sector bank, ICICI Bank, has got over 2.1 million ‘likes’ on its official Facebook page. HDFC Bank has about 1.5 million likes on its official Facebook homepage and Axis Bank has more than 1.2 million likes. Not surprising, given that the number of Facebook users in India has gone up considerably over the years. In the first three months of 2013, Facebook said there were 78 million monthly average users on its platform in India.

“As private banks engage in fierce competition with each other to manage the finances of India's middle class, Facebook has proven to be a deciding battleground,” Unmetric, a social media branding and analytics company, said in a recent report.

Banks share trivia, new product launches and awareness posters with customers and patrons. Users discuss a post they deem important and gain insights.

As one bank chairman of a public sector bank said in a different context: “Customers are not coming to you these days, so I tell my managers that they will have to go out and seek customers.”

The flip side

However, this strategy of embracing customers might not always have the desired results. Customers can use the forum to blast the bank for its poor service resulting in a negative impression, especially to prospective customers. However, the use of social media by customers is also goading banks to address the complaints promptly.

For instance, a customer called Sameer Wagh wanted to know why his ICICI account was inactive and he posted this in the comments of a quiz posted by the bank. The bank replied asking the customer to message his contact details to receive a call back.

“The social media platform offers us great opportunity to manage customer expectations and experience. All customer grievances are integrated at the back end with the customer relationship management modules built especially for Twitter and Facebook. We have created a separate form to capture queries from the social media platform,” says N. S. Kannan, Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer, ICICI Bank.

Compared with their private sector counterparts, the public sector banks seem to be slow starters.

“Social media being a two-way conversation, only a handful of banks have dared to embrace the veritable minefield of actively engaging two-way conversations with customers out in the open,” Unmetric said.

Many public sector banks do not have an official Facebook page. One of the latest entrants in this medium is the Jammu & Kashmir Bank. IDBI Bank has garnered about 0.7 million likes on its official page.

“Social media has helped us get in touch with people we are unable to meet regularly. Understanding this strength of social media platforms, J&K Bank has also started exploring this communication platform recently,” the bank says.

The banks also have a small or negligible presence on the micro-blogging site Twitter.

Among private banks, Kotak Mahindra Bank has the highest number of followers on Twitter at 34,123 and IDBI Bank tops the list among public sector banks with 12,135.

When it comes to Indian banks, for every 1,000 Facebook fans, there are just eight followers on Twitter and 1.5 subscribers on YouTube.

Clearly, money must speak louder, and faster!

Published on June 06, 2013

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