Friday, February 24, 2012

How Social Media can succeed and fail at the same time

I recently had a less than ideal experience buying tires a couple of weeks ago. I'd gone out to the Mr. Tire website looking for 2 tires for my car. I found a reasonably priced option and called the local Mr. Tire. I'd bought tires there in the past and had a fine experience. I was informed that the shop didn't have the tires, but the manager could go pick them up and have them there the next day (Sunday). I agreed and we set up an appointment for 12:30 on Sunday.
I showed up for the appointment and found out the tires weren't there. He made some excuse about not having the truck the day before and couldn't get out to pick them, the warehouse was closed on Sunday, blah blah blah. Frankly, it didn't really matter why. So, even with the "discount" to compensate me for hassle, I left with two new tires and paying $385, about $100 more than I had planned.
Like any savvy consumer, I decided to go back out on the website and compare the price from my bill to the one on the site. The tire price on the web site was $184 per tire. When I looked at the bill, the list price of the tire was $190 and the "discount" reduced it to $180. Wow, what a generous gesture. It felt like a "Bait and Switch" routine. I'm getting angry just thinking about it.
So I went out and tweeted the following" Had a horrible experience at @MrTireAuto.Won't be going back there again.". I received an empathetic response from them and, after going back and forth for a few days, sent the person an email outlining the whole story. She responded and ended the email with the following" I'm going to pass this on to our Customer Service team for followup with you and the store manager directly." It's been almost two weeks and I've heard nothing from either.
So what's the moral of the story? Make sure you align your social media interactions online with your service and delivery channels off line. This has made an already bad experience even worse. Not only have I tweeted about it, I'm now writing a blog post. When I worked for 1st Mariner Bank, we had a similar experience except we were on the receiving end of a tweet that stated" First Mariner Bank- you're dead to me". (I was the lucky one who had to deal with that!) To see how we handled it much differently, check out this post, First Mariner Bank: A New Shining Star in Social Media PR

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Who Loses when Consumers Debank?

As I started catching up on my reading, I came across Ron Shevlin's recent post on Snarketing 2.0 last week. Titled The Debanked: The $1.7 Billion Threat to Banks, Ron defines the these customers as " Mainstream consumers who willingly opt out of the traditional banking system." These could be consumers who have chosen to manage their daily financial needs by using prepaid cards. Debanked consumers can be distinguished from the UnderBanked as they are typically young, highly educated, and employed or employable. I think of many of the young people who've participated in the recent Occupy Wall Street demonstrations.
The $1.7 Billion represents the fees lost by banks as these customers leave. So who in the financial services industry gets hurt the most? In my opinion, it is the community banks and credit unions. The Mega-Banks have been willing to give up these customers and the related fees (Bank of America's decision to decline any Reg E overdrafts on debit card transactions, for example). Community banks and CU's don't have that luxury.
So if you are a community bank or credit union, don't miss the boat (although some would argue they already have). Look at a prepaid card program as an add-on to regular checking options. It's what a whole new generation of consumers are looking for, and WalMart and other retailers are more than happy to provide it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Plumbing Project, Home Depot, and Banking

I spent this past Sunday working on a typical plumbing project; lots of self-inflicted issues (like cutting a pipe that I shouldn't have) resulting in multiple trips to Home Depot, and lots of purchases and returns.
It was on my third trip to Home Depot (and to be honest, I went to a different one then my first two visits to avoid additional embarrassment) that I talked to Frank, the plumbing guy who finally helped me to get to a solution and end the madness. So what does this have to do with banking?
As I discussed in my previous post, community banks struggle with the balance of technology and people. Home Depot, like many other retailers, seems to understand the balance. I used the self service checkout to make my purchases each time. But when I had a question or, by the end, a major problem, it was Frank's help that added value in the interaction.
To me, that highlights the inherent synergy between self and full service. In addition to Home Depot, I've gotten used to pumping my own gas, purchasing items at Ikea, or making purchases online. However, when I have a problem or a more complex transaction, I want to work with a person. either by phone or in person.
Banking is really no different. With all the self service tools available, many customers never have to deal directly with a bank employee. How can bank employees add value in this era of self service? What about helping out the consumers who are struggling to get out of debt or recover from financial issues by partnering with a credit counseling service? Being problem solvers will add value and create some loyalty from your customers. This should, in turn, provide the opportunity to offer more products and services.
Banking has become an industry of scale, much like the "big box" retailers. For community banks to survive and thrive, they truly need to re-invent themselves. Sticking with the status quo by competing with the big banks just won't cut it.