Westpac customer marketing chief: Social is a great way to start conversations

Bank's head of customer relationship marketing and digital, Karen Ganschow, also stresses the importance of consistency in cross-channel engagement

Social media is a great place to start conversations with customers on a new purchase journey, and also plays a vital role in recognising and responding to their needs, Westpac’s customer marketing chief claims.

Speaking at the Retail Financial Services event in Sydney, head of customer relationship marketing and digital, Australian Financial Services, Karen Ganschow, highlighted the importance of social and mobile engagement in the banking group’s modern marketing strategy.

She also stressed the need to personalise and standardise customer experiences across whatever channels a consumer chooses to communicate and engage with a brand in.

Ganschow shared an example of how Westpac has generated qualified customer leads through Facebook by opening up conversations between prospective customers and home finance experts on first-time lending. Customers looking to take conversations further are then sent a direct message offering them their own personal finance expert within the bank.

“This is slightly less confronting than walking into a branch, and has been working well in helping generate real business leads,” she told attendees. “It also helps us understand what’s on our customers’ minds.”

Westpac is also supporting customers of its Westpac, Bank SA and St George brands through social. “Social can be scary as a brand, especially when bank bashing is a national past time, to put yourself out there. Yes, you will get people saying nasty things about you and your brand. But we’ve also learnt a lot about our customers through these channels,” Ganschow commented.

“In digital [channels], you can see through a consumer’s behaviour what really works, what they care about, and what doesn’t work… we use search keywords for example, to know what’s hot for customers and pull that through our whole customer journey.”

In one case, social helped Westpac see the confusion customers were experiencing around fixed and comparison rates it advertised for new home loans, Ganschow said. Westpac responded to these comments by providing an external explainer website to help customers understand comparison rates.

“The joy with social media... was that we got to see that confusion and were able to respond to that,” she said. “We received 800 comments, and the last 600 were positive, having established that precedence.”

Related: Customer-led big data programs add millions to Westpac's bottom line

Ganschow also highlighted the vital role mobile is playing in customer engagement today, pointing out that more than half of all banking is now being done on mobile devices. Westpac is meeting this need by designing all digital services and forms with a mobile-first mentality, she said.

"2013 was the last year of the desktop and laptop; everything we've seen since then says the majority of online bank sessions are now coming through mobile,” Ganschow said.

“If your assets are not mobile-first, friendly and mobile-aware, you won’t be giving customers a great experience.”

At the same time, she called on brands to ensure that whatever message or experience they and endeavouring give to customers is consistent and relevant across whatever channel consumers choose to engage in, digital, call centre or otherwise.

“Customers won’t stay tidy – they move between screens and devices,” she said. “They also don’t go one-way; a customer may start online, then come into the brand and go back online to complete a purchase. And it’s not necessarily one action after another; they can be simultaneous.

“The challenge for marketers bringing this together is that it’s getting more complex. The only channel we have turned off is fax marketing. We still need and want TV, outdoor, direct mail, branches, employee activation, social media and a mobile app.

“We have to learn how to orchestrate and synchronise the marketing team as we launch new products. And the real frontier is not just harmonising our efforts, but ensuring there’s no loss of data, insight and engagement for customers.”

The Retail Financial Services event was hosted by Asia-Pacific Banking and Finance.

Photo credit: Courtesy of AB+F magazine.

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