Taking advantage of the advocacy economy: put your trust in the stars

Lisa Ashworth, CEO, Reevoo

Trust is at the heart of the relationship between a finance institution and its customers. It is however a valuable commodity that is increasingly hard to come by in today’s business landscape.

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, 2017 was the first year since the index began (in 2012) that public trust declined across business, government, NGOs and media. In the financial sector, a few high-profile data breaches have shaken consumer trust, and even created some real financial difficulties, such as in the case of TSB’s system migration in early 2018.

Despite all of this, the barometer revealed that trust in financial services has been bucking the trend and gradually rising in the five years up until 2017. Moving into 2018, this has somewhat stalled, but it is still markedly higher than in previous years. So how can finance brands build on this trust?

When it comes to their relationship with consumers, the key is to make sure that there is the right balance of human interaction, a savvy use of technology to protect the consumer and personalised recommendations based on preferences.

The best kind of recommendations are peer-to-peer – as nothing convinces like the convinced. Hardly any prospective customers ignore reviews – 92% check companies out online, while 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

If a bank can show that it not only provides excellent service to customers but can respond to criticism quickly, it will find that its best marketers are in fact its users. We live in an advocacy economy, and it’s important that financial brands acknowledge this and take steps to ensure they are a part of it.

Many marketers already recognise the authenticity that word-of-mouth and peer reviews bring to product endorsements but are unsure how to fully (and safely) tap into it. News around the vulnerabilities that social media platforms have to outside influence (as exposed by the Cambridge Analytica scandal) has made people more sceptical of sources whose identity can’t be verified – from news titles to individuals.

The good news is that genuine peer reviews are easy for brands to access and utilise. At Reevoo, we verify customer identity and ensure they are a ‘real’ customer before asking them to provide feedback on a product or service.

Taking a verified-only approach means that those searching for a new bank or finance institution can trust that the feedback they read is genuine (not posted by a competitor or the company itself). It also gives those businesses the opportunity to listen to – and learn from – their customers.

We encourage building this feedback into the model of how customers are served, allowing for changes in service to be influenced by demand in real time. It is crucial for banks to tap into that resource: not only does this empower customers to shape the service in the way they want, but it encourages customer advocacy.

It may be natural to shy away from inviting criticism from any user base, but independent reviews give customers a voice – especially when organisations can seem faceless or hard to reach. For the banks themselves, criticism shouldn’t sting. It should be valuable market research into product development and service improvement.

What’s more, customers have finely-tuned ‘too good to be true’ detectors. A slew of five-star reviews can only mean two things – the reviews are fake, or someone has been editing out the black marks. Engaging customers means keeping it real, warts and all, while being willing to take criticisms and act on it. If finance brands can do this right they can tap into the best kind of marketing: advocacy.

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