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Published January 28th 2013

The Importance of Trust in the Financial Services Sector

There’s just no room for bad business in the age of social media. It’s been an, in many ways, educative month at work. It was a month that included a Brian Solis keynote at #InnoNapo, where we all got reminded about the current digital transformation taking place and what’s in it for today’s business leaders.

Timely enough, it was also the same week that Edelman released their yearly Trust Barometer report, showing a steady decrease in trust in business leaders and governments.

But, it was also the week when I finally got fed up with my bank and changed for what looks like a better and smarter option. A change that involved the usual French paperwork (yes, I live in Paris), but also left room for a somewhat heated debate between myself and my banker.

So why wasn’t I happy with my bank, wondered my banker?

I got lectured in why the bank needs to impose the heavy charges, how great it is to be able to book a personal meeting with my adviser and what an honour it is to bank with such an old and time-trusted institution.

I had to stop him there: trusted institution? I don’t know if it was the Edelman report, the words of Brian Solis or just my honest discontent that made me interrupt the banker’s monologue.

I think I realised I had had enough of this green-coloured-tennis-loving-bank-with-just-too-many-Facebook-promotions. Trust in banks is at an all-time low – alongside other financial services – according to Edelman. Anyone that has not been under a rock that last year should understand why. 

What do you do when you’re operating in an industry where almost 50% of the informed public has lost faith in you? Well, if you’re my former bank you try to impose a status quo, increase the charges and hope that customers will stay due to a ludicrously high switching cost.

However, if you’re a forward-thinking bank; one that recognises the currently troubled status of their own industry and monitors customer perception through online conversation, then you will understand that today’s customer wants free internet banking in favour of lavish physical branches, and that they don’t trust the financial advice given by the bank but instead would rather seek out their own source of expertise.

If you’ll excuse my further complaints about this bank: I even found out that my basic banking package charged me €3/month for a supplementary service that allowed for a ‘view mode’ on my internet bank i.e. I could sort per transaction instead of only date.

I’ll leave it to you to judge whether that’s a product aimed at the customer… or the shareholders. With policies like this, it’s no wonder that France has the least trusted national identity for companies in the West.

Looking beyond simply banking, which social media tactics can companies employ in order to gain back consumer trust?

Here are a few useful tips I think are most significant when considering how social can be used to build trust:

  • The ability to listen to your customers’ needs and their feedback on your products can be enhanced with social media monitoring tools installed across an organisation.
  • Employees trained in social media communications together with a strong social media content strategy can help organisations better communicate frequently and honestly on the terms of business.
  • Employees can better address consumers’ issues by knowing their online personas, such as understanding which responses are appropriate in online spaces.
  • Using social and collaborative technologies can improve internal operations and productivity, distributing workloads and responsibilities.

Basically, this blog is the ideal place to pen these ideas – simply by listening to customer conversation, banks would know what it is they need to do in order to regain consumer trust and then act upon it.

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