Thursday, August 7, 2008

Social Networking Comes to Banking


Like most people, I like to complain about my bank. Why do they hold a new clients' checks for 10 days, before depositing it to my business account? What's up with these outrageous ATM fees? Why, when I call customer service with a question about a credit card I never use, I'm treated like a pariah, even though this same bank has my mortgage, some serious investments and my checking business? Why can't they understand the entire relationship and treat me like a valued customer???

Oh, most of us have lots of things to say (usually not very nice things...) about our bank.

Well, now you have a place to vent! Just announced this week, a new social networking site, called My Bank Tracker, that allows consumers to rate and review financial offerings.

From the introductory press release:
The "My Bank Tracker" site is designed to present sophisticated information through a visually uncluttered and an intuitive user interface where consumers can interact with each other and where local and national financial institutions (virtual or physical) can present their many product offerings. "MyBankTracker.com realized that there was a need for an online banking services information destination that allowed users to comparative shop for a service that was best for them while leveraging the knowledge and experience of the millions of existing banking customers," said Alex Matjanec, Media & Communications - My Bank Tracker.

"With the launch of My Bank Tracker, we're taking the personalization and social networking movement a step further by leveraging the power of the internet and of consumers, to inform and educate in ways that were up until today lacking for traditional institutions such as banks," added Matjanec."
What will be very interesting, I think, is to see how banks react when their esteemed institution is being bashed by an angry customer. The smart banks will participate openly in this new community and address criticism honestly. They need to tackle issues and show that they are making positive changes as a result of hearing feedback.

Banks need to look at this new networking site as an opportunity to learn more about customer needs. It's also an opportunity to highlight their competitive and unique offerings to a captive audience of financial services shoppers who are actively seeking financial information. Talk about direct marketing!

On the flip side, there are lots of things that banks should not do. For example, they absolutely cannot become defensive. They don't have to agree with criticism of their services, but they need to answer concerns politely and with facts. Moreover, if the customer complaint is legit, they need to fix the problem immediately. And, most importantly, if this site takes off, they can't ignore it. Banks need to be vital contributors to this community.

I'm looking forward to seeing how the different financial firms embrace the concept of a social networking forum dedicated to them.

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