As part of our Customer Voices series, we asked a real customer banking with Nationwide Building Society in the UK to review their social media presence. His score was 5/10. His verdict: ‘a good start, but a long way to go’.
I joined Nationwide Building Society as a personal banking customer in 2001; a refugee from NatWest Bank, with whom I’d had a poor customer service experience. I found Nationwide to be a breath of fresh air; their customer service was English speaking and courteous, and their banking products were easy to understand. Over the last eleven years I have used Nationwide’s FlexAccount current account. I’ve also taken out a credit card and a personal loan and opened a couple of ISAs and other savings accounts. If Nationwide offered business bank accounts I would probably use them for my professional needs as well! You might gather from this profile that I am a satisfied customer; and you’d be generally right.
Of course, Nationwide has its flaws. I am a child of the internet age, being an enthusiastic early adopter of emails and the internet in the mid 1990s. I simply have things I’d rather be doing than spending my Saturday mornings queuing at my local Nationwide branch or listening to endless hold music in a call queue on the telephone banking line.
I was delighted when Nationwide introduced internet banking in 2004 and can see that they have taken some steps in keeping up with the social media revolution – more on this shortly. I’ve found I can use Nationwide’s internet banking for most things, and am especially impressed with their online payment management system – although I’ve come across some frustrating shortcomings. For instance, I found it impossible to transfer funds from my “Instant Access” ISA to another Nationwide account online. I could make payments into the ISA but not withdraw funds. That would have been too easy.
Instead I had to brave the weekend shoppers and trudge down to my “local branch”, about ten miles from where I live. On arrival I was told I needed to present a paper passbook, which of course I’d lost shortly after opening the account. I was then informed I couldn’t order a new passbook at the branch. I had to phone the telephone banking line and request a form which I then had to fill in and send back via post!
It took three lengthy phone calls over a six week period to get this sorted. On each occasion their database would fail to register my conversation and I’d end up starting from scratch a couple of weeks later when the expected form hadn’t arrived.
Nationwide enters social media
As a self styled social media aficionado and a regular internet banking user I was surprised that Nationwide’s social media efforts had gone largely under my radar. At a time when banks such as NatWest and HSBC are spending millions of pounds presenting an approachable, human face to their customers through social media, Nationwide’s awkward sounding “digital customer engagement” initiative appeared a bit of a damp squib.
My immediate impression was that Twitter is new venture for Nationwide, and not a particularly imaginative one at that. As a customer, many of the tweets were of interest to me; such as messages announcing the launch of new services. There were also status updates warning customers of problems such as the internet banking server being down.
But aside from this I didn’t see much interaction with followers, which surely is what Twitter is all about. There were very few “@mentions” or replies to followers and almost no use of “#tags”.
Almost every Tweet was taken up with a lengthy URL, sometimes cut off part way through when the allotted 140 characters were used up – an unforgiveable Tweet sin, as link shortening is a very simple matter. I dutifully signed up as a follower, although in my opinion Nationwide do not yet really understand Twitter, not having moved beyond using it as a glorified bulletin board.
Almost inconceivably, Nationwide currently has no official Facebook presence; a very serious omission for any bank committed to a social media marketing strategy. Nationwide should be using Facebook to make the sort of service announcements they currently broadcast on Twitter, as well as providing links to adverts, promotions and their Youtube channel.
I logged onto Nationwide’s Youtube channel to be greeted by a patronising exhortation for me to “ditch the posh coffee and save £60 a month”, as if they automatically assumed I couldn’t possibly survive without my daily latte from Starbucks. Nevertheless I was impressed to find that Nationwide had a Youtube channel at all, after their strange absence from Facebook.
The site is nicely branded in line with their latest advertising campaign and hosts a library of 61 videos. The site has clocked up over 30,000 video views but has a disappointing 41 subscribers. I would have expected more considering the number of Nationwide customers who must use Youtube.
I see two reasons for this. Firstly, along with the rest of Nationwide’s social media programme, it isn’t very well publicised, as if Nationwide were somehow embarrassed of social media or unsure of itself.
The second reason is the videos themselves. Ok, I was glad to be able to watch the TV adverts on Youtube and some of the user guides – to internet banking for example – are genuinely useful. But I think videos of this sort should be hosted on the main Nationwide website, not on Youtube.
Many of the videos are mind-numbingly dull. Try sitting through the ultra low budget guides to the UK House Price Index and you’ll know what I mean. Where are the user created videos, the local charity and school events? I have to conclude that while Nationwide has made a decent start, they haven’t yet released the full potential of Youtube.
After a frankly anti-climatic tour of the big three social networks, I was happier with the efforts Nationwide was making to reach out to customers on its own website.
Standing out among these services was “Your Voice”, a service where customers could submit questions to Nationwide and receive a public answer on the website.
At last this was a service that captured the essence of social media. “Your Voice” was online democracy at its finest, a widely varied, evolving set of “frequently asked questions” that I feel will be useful for existing and potential customers alike.
Many of the responses had many comments and had evolved into true social media conversations. There was even a Facebook style “like button”, where users could click to “agree” with the comments. There are obviously people within the organisation who have a strong vision for social media.
If only they could take the next step and incorporate some of these feedback elements into a Facebook page – they will reach far more people that way and wouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel on their own website. To make the most of “Your Voice”, I believe Nationwide should interface with both Facebook and Twitter.
It is obvious that Nationwide are new to social media, but it is encouraging that they have at least made the first important steps. They have an active presence on Twitter and on Youtube. Their silence on Facebook is in my opinion a big mistake, but perhaps Nationwide feel they compensate for this with their own bespoke feedback system in “Your Voice”.
While this is partially true, I believe the next step for Nationwide is to integrate their various social media streams in order to reach new audiences, and to harness their full potential.
Score: 5/10. A good start but a long way to go.
More on the Author: David (UK)
David is a 31 year old male. He uses facebook and twitter extensively for business use and moderately for personal use. He banks with Nationwide (personal) and HSBC (business) – almost exclusively using their online banking services. He can’t remember the last time he went into one of their branches!