Spotter: Update your social media status

Banks can no longer afford to ignore the uprising of social media, with many institutions seeking ways to incorporate it into their CRM strategies. Richard May, national sales director for the UK and Ireland at Spotter, explains how monitoring and analysing social media data can provide the bank with actionable insights into its customers.

Banks have long sought out ways to better understand their customers. Through amassing as much information as possible, they can theoretically garner insights that will shape their strategy in years to come. And while in practice, the task is fraught with obstacles, there are major benefits to be derived from an intelligent use of analytics.

Social media boom

As we enter an age of social media, this situation is growing more pressing, with the challenges and the opportunities intensifying. If a bank succeeds in its social media approach, it will open up an exciting new channel for harnessing customer data. At the same time, the more unstructured information that is generated, the harder it becomes to process.
"Through social media, there is a hugely rich source of consumer information, if it can be collected, understood and analysed," says Richard May, national sales director for the UK and Ireland at Spotter. "The key is really turning big data into smart data - using a platform that monitors, analyses and streams this data to cut through the noise."
For banks that rise to the challenge, there is the chance to gain a real competitive advantage. So far, very few banks have developed fully integrated social media strategies, and early adopters stand to carve a very special niche.
"I think the real question is, what's stopping banks from using social media to connect with their customers and potentially drive new business opportunities?" says May. "I think there are a few questions that banks might be asking."
Their concerns are certainly legitimate. To begin with, there is the matter of public perception: will customers really want to be 'friends' with their bankers? Then there are issues of security and regulation. Banks must guard against the risks of engaging with customers in what is a relatively uncontrolled forum, all the while adhering to privacy legislation. Finally, implementing social media strategies necessitates widespread organisational changes. How can banks prepare for these requisite cultural shifts?

A CRM rethink

One thing is clear: banks' current CRM strategies are poorly equipped for the task ahead. Designed with traditional channels in mind, they are intended to derive optimum value from each customer across the relationship lifecycle. But as customers themselves start to wrest control of the conversation, the goal changes. CRM becomes less about managing the customer and more about managing the dialogue.
"Getting the most out of social media requires banks to rethink the way they integrate their technology platforms," says May. "To maximise returns, banks must carefully consider how they can bring their customer data, products and services together into a single IT platform to make banks more accessible and responsive to their customers."
As a social media monitoring company with a
multinational presence, Spotter offers data analysis tools across numerous sectors. It can therefore apply the lessons learnt in verticals such as telecommunications and airlines, which are widely praised for their use of social marketing, and apply them to the complex scenarios commonly found in a bank.
In practice, this means taking a measured approach, in which lessons learnt from early ventures and strategies are gradually fine tuned. After analysing its social media landscape and identifying sources of value, the bank can start to implement the necessary improvements and accelerate its customer management capabilities. It will find it easier to make decisions, creating a proactive communications campaign.
This is not simply a matter of pouring money into a venture. "Without significant understanding of the customer's demands, clients will waste much of their early investments," says May. "Our recommendation would be to build a strategic road map for the future, taking the opportunity to learn from their own steps and those of their more experimental peers. It's about measuring and analysing information gained through social media and traditional channels of communication."
A bank needs to take a holistic view of its customers throughout. It needs to be able to look at all their interactions, be they over the phone, in person or via social media, and see them as part of an integrated whole. Through using a global social CRM framework, the bank will not only draw closer to the people who use its services, but will be able to perform analytics across the full spectrum of data. This will help it derive real insight into customers' investment patterns, value propositions and market trends.

Stay one step ahead

May believes that the next few years will see a major evolution in this arena. Analytics will be used ever more creatively across social CRM frameworks, thereby turning big data into smart data. As banks navigate this transition, Spotter's services can help. Through synthesising and processing data, no matter what its source, the company can help banks arrive at truly actionable understandings.
"To stay one step ahead of the game, you need a system that incorporates all relevant conversations relating to your business, to provide a comprehensive picture of the marketplace as a whole," says May. "This is important to help banks gain advantage over their competitors, increase their share of the voice and ultimately attract new customers."
Here, there are clear implications for the balance sheet.
"With this information, strategic and operational decisions can be made with confidence and improve the bottom line," May continues. "In addition, marketing campaigns can be monitored in real time by using the feedback from social media to ensure every pound spent on marketing is maximised."
As social media continues to make the world a smaller place, these sorts of discussions will take place in an increasingly expansive context. Trends and attitudes in one country can easily sweep over into another, meaning no one part of the world should be viewed in isolation. As such, there is a growing need to monitor social media on a regional, national and cross-border scale.
Banks must also be prepared to deal with multiple languages. Recently, Spotter announced its UK launch, adding to the presence it already has across the US, France, Spain, Canada, Dubai and Qatar. Its contention is that UK banks cannot focus solely on English. They must also be prepared to monitor and analyse content in other languages, such as Russian, Arabic and Chinese, helping them gain a true understanding of their customers' needs.
While this may seem like a daunting task, all in all it represents a profound opportunity for a bank. Through adequately harnessing new technologies, a bank stands to make impressive gains. It can take a proactive rather than a reactive approach, using social media to manage its business and reputation, and ultimately drive success.
"Within the context of this rapidly evolving world of social media, banks will quickly need to adopt social media in some form or another to stay competitive in the marketplace," says May. "More and more organisations at the moment are adopting it in order to gain a business advantage and derive customer insights."

Richard May, national sales director for the UK and Ireland at Spotter.