What Twitter is teaching FNB

GWA

It’early on Saturday morning and I’m trying to coax my eyes open. My Blackberry has beeped at me and I can just make out through my hazy vision that it’s a message from RB Jacobs.  As much as I would like to turn over and go back to sleep, I know for sure, something must be going down on Twitter. So,  I get myself together and open up my tweet deck to take a look.  Sure enough, there’s a conversation on Twitter  FNB needs to pay attention to.
Our team of at FNB has learnt that Twitter never sleeps and for us Twitter has become a natural extension to our daily lives in and outside of the bank.
It surprises many people to know that FNB is on Twitter. Indeed, FNB was the first bank on Twitter actively engaging customers and others.  Today, FNB’s RB Jacobs ranks in the Top 100 most popular (in terms of followers) in South Africa and FNB is the only Bank to make it in this top listing.
Rankings aside, for us Twitter has become a critical customer relationship management tool, an informative, rich window into virtual conversations and a very important gauge of the temperature out there.
We took the decision to become active on Twitter early on. We are fortunate at FNB that the culture embraces innovation and fast decision making. I had no problem persuading my brand director to allow us to focus resources in this area. From the start we have kept the team tight by using existing resources in our digital team and have up skilled where necessary. However and most importantly, this little team is supported by a large, but effective labyrinth of PR and customer relation’s staff across the entire bank.
Right from the start we knew that if we were going to be on Twitter, we had to have a human face and not just be the Bank on Twitter.   So we decided to create RBJacobs.   – The FNB guy as he is fondly referred to now. RB Jacobs is the pseudonym used in advertising over the years by FNB. We’ve had good feedback to this personna and we are pleased we resisted the urge to Tweet under the name FNB.
RBJacobs singular role is to monitor Twitter interact with customers who are experiencing problems and respond to direct messages by getting the right help or advice to them FAST!
Every tweet has been well thought through and is a measured response from a financial institution, which unlike many other businesses, is governed by strict rules around customer engagement and advice. I always say, it’s easy to be a fast food company on social media platforms, but for banks it’s much more restricted and challenging.
However, even though he represents a bank, we try to keep RB Jacobs human and real. He has light-hearted moments, especially when some errant followers are try to pick him up.  He also indulges in the odd  retweet of pro-FNB messages of course. However we are of the firm belief that Twitter should not be used to hard sell product, but is a channel to engage with customers and create a dialogue and importantly HELP people.  RB is there to support FNB’s brand position of How can we help you?
I believe Twitter is playing a positive role in helping FNB be a more efficient customer focussed organisation.  Our turn-around times on complaints on Twitter are incredibly fast, probably one of the fasted CRM channels in the bank currently. It is also giving us real time insights into what customers think and say about us. It’s invaluable research.
We’ve also had some interesting moments.  One time we picked up a tweet from a lady in an FNB Branch who was witnessing an armed robbery in a major shopping centre. Her first instinct was to Tweet about it, as she crouched down on the floor under a desk.  This lady didn’t alert a family member to her potential danger, she told the world on Twitter.  The robbery was in fact taking place next door to FNB, so the branch manager did the right thing and locked down the branch to keep customers safe from the rogues outside with AK47’s.  We were able to contact the Branch head office and alert them to the drama unfolding.  She broke this story broke first on Twitter and it took leading news service News24 seven hours to post it. We felt good that we would have had the correct support in place had something turned bad during this event.
We solve queries as mundane as wanting to know where to get help if a card has been swallowed by an ATM, to dealing with a major PR crisis, like the time when our Online Banking system failed and left customers without online banking access for three days. RBJacobs was on call 24/7 and handled all queries generated on Twitter during this trying period.
Users of Twitter in South Africa are a very influential community. Most leading journalists, editors, newsgroups are on Twitter. The Twitter profile is around 30 +, educated and working. These are people with influence and opinions who can exact real damage or good for your brand. According to research company Sysomos, South African Twitter users make up 0.85% of total  global Twitter users. SA ranks in the top ten countries with populations using Twitter.
As you have no doubt realised by now, I’m somewhat of a Twitter evangelist, so much so that I’ve been called a Twit myself for my dogged attachment to my Tweetdeck. Far from being insulted I’m amused.  As far as I am concerned Twitter is becoming the singularly most powerful communication channel in the world.    I was privileged enough to listen to Biz Stone co-founder of Twitter talk at a conference in July. He shared his own experiences with companies who are using Twitter to build their brands and create enduring relationships. It’s clearly working for them!
Twitter has grown to more than 50 million users globally in just two years. This growth is attributed in part by celebrity endorsements but also by the service’s ability to deliver breaking news, sometimes ahead of traditional media,
I know there are many sceptics who question it’s long-term viability in terms of a business case, but the sheer numbers of people adopting this channel to communicate cannot be ignored.
Recently Twitter concluded a deal with Google which will expose Tweets to a wider audience — the search engine processes billions of search queries a day — which will help the company to cement its position as a window into the world’s conversations. This may also allay fears of long-term sustainability.
Here I quote Greg Sterling an analyst with Sterling Market Intelligence, who said recently: “The inclusion in the search results will make it more visible. Twitter can seem ridiculous to those who are not using it to get commercial offers or information from sources that they value. There will be some education for parts of the market from this. Twitter’s real-time insight into what people are discussing has huge value to marketers and companies that want to reach consumers and understand how their brands are perceived, according to experts. “
What RB Jacobs on Twitter is teaching FNB?
o Twitter never sleeps
o You have to be open and honest in acknowledging problems, don’t hide or shirk your responsibility to respond to valid issues
o Be fast  (and I mean responding immediately with the promise of an early resolution to a problem and ensuring the problem is resolved in hours if not minutes. Sure complex problems may take longer, but never longer than a day). This is an instant medium and queries and issues have to be dealt with real time. Companies must ensure they have commitment of customer service teams to providing help and answers fast
o If you cannot solve a problem quickly make sure you keep the dialogue going, so that the audience knows you are committed to sorting it out
o Don’t confuse CRM with sales messages.  The Twitterverse will not be forgiving if you do
o Special offers or information around marketing needs to be relevant, or you will just irritate the Twitterverse. Jet Blue (airline in the United States) is using Twitter to great effect.
o Keep it real and human
o Twitter will force better efficiencies in your CRM systems internally. Embrace it, it’s all for the good
o Use discretion. Take serious or personal issues offline immediately and try and engage directly with the person who has the problem. As much as Twitter is a public space, certain issues should not be dialogued in the open.
o Respect the fact that you are going to read Tweets that are nasty personal impressions about your brand and you will just have to ignore them. People are entitled to their opinions.
o Make sure you have enough internal support and resources. No company can engage on Twitter without the buy in of key departments and adequate resources.
o Be committed. Twtter is here to stay and if you are going to be part of it, then you need to be committed and this means 24/7. You cannot dip in and out whenever.
o Think before you tweet.  If you make a mistake and give the wrong information know that while you can delete the entry, it will still be out there in the Twitterverse anyway, because Twitter is just so fast + its probably been retweeted already!
o Staff who are representing your brand on Twitter, need to be media trained and understand the medium.   Preferably use digital natives because they really get it. People who feel comfortable on Twitter and who are personal users too.
o Don’t be afraid to learn from mistakes, but be sure to take the learning’s and apply them.  You don’t get second chances. You will also learn as you go what works and what doesn’t, importantly this need to be documented internally shared and adopted for future.
o Don’t underestimate Twitter or those using it.  Behind many pseudo names are key influencers in society,  media, business, politics and academia. People who can make or break your brand.
o Twitter is about giving, not about taking
o Twitter is not a game or a passing fad. It’s also not some misguided technical experiment.  It’s a sophisticated, legitimate channel for communication for humanity and it can build or harm a brand’s reputation.
o If you are not on Twitter yet, what are you waiting for?  Get out there and start engaging, learning, informing and giving.
As Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter says: ““Twitter is a triumph of humanity and not a triumphof technology”

[By Gisèle Wertheim Aymés] It’s early on Saturday morning and I’m trying to coax my eyes open. My BlackBerry has beeped at me and I can just make out through my hazy vision that it’s a message from RB Jacobs.

As much as I would like to turn over and go back to sleep, I know something important must be happening on Twitter. So, I get myself together, open TweetDeck, my Twitter application, and, sure enough, there’s a conversation on Twitter that First National Bank (FNB) needs to pay attention to.

Our team at FNB has learnt that people on Twitter never sleep and for us the service has become a natural extension of our daily lives in and outside of the bank.

It surprises many people when they hear that FNB is on Twitter. Indeed, FNB was the first SA bank to engage customers actively via the service. Today, FNB’s RB Jacobs ranks in the top 100 most popular Twitter users in SA in terms of followers. He’s the only representative of a bank in SA to make it onto this list.

Rankings aside, for us Twitter has become a critical customer relationship management tool, an informative, rich window into virtual conversations and an important gauge of the temperature out there.

We took the decision to become active on Twitter early on. We are fortunate at FNB that the culture embraces innovation and fast decision making. I had no problem persuading my brand director to allow us to focus resources in this area. From the start we have kept the team tight by using existing resources in our digital team and have up-skilled where necessary.

However, and most importantly, this small team is supported by a large but effective labyrinth of public and customer relations staff across the bank.

From the start, we knew that if we were going to engage on Twitter, we had to show a human face to the rest of the world. So we created RB Jacobs. RB Jacobs is a pseudonym used in advertising over the years by FNB. We’ve had good feedback to this persona and we are pleased we resisted the urge to tweet under the name FNB.

RB Jacobs singular role is to monitor Twitter interactions with customers who are experiencing problems and to respond to direct messages by getting the right help or advice to them — and fast.

Every tweet has been well thought through and is a measured response. FNB is governed by strict rules around customer engagement and advice so it has to be careful what it says. It’s easy to be a fast-food company on social media platforms; for banks it’s much more restrictive and challenging.

Even though he represents a bank, we try to keep RB Jacobs human and real. He has light-hearted moments, especially when some errant followers are try to pick him up.  He also indulges in the odd retweet — of pro-FNB messages, of course.

However, we are of the firm belief that Twitter should not be used to hard-sell our products. It is a channel to engage with customers and create a dialogue and, most importantly, help people. RB Jacobs is there to support FNB’s brand position of “How can we help you?”.

I believe Twitter is playing a positive role in helping FNB be a more efficient customer-focused organisation. Our turnaround times on complaints on Twitter are incredibly fast, probably one of the fastest customer relationship management channels in the bank. It is also giving us real-time insights into what customers think and say about us. It’s invaluable research.

We’ve also had some interesting moments. There was one time when we picked up a tweet from a lady in an FNB branch who was witnessing an armed robbery in a major shopping centre. Her first instinct was to tweet about it, as she crouched down on the floor under a desk. This lady didn’t alert a family member to her potential danger, she told the world on Twitter.

The robbery was in fact taking place next door to FNB, so the branch manager did the right thing and locked down the branch to keep customers safe from the rogues outside with AK47s. We were able to contact the branch head office and alert them to the drama unfolding.

She broke this story on Twitter and it took news website News24 seven hours before it ran with the story. We felt good that we would have had the correct support in place had something turned bad during this event.

We solve queries as mundane as wanting to know where to get help if a card has been swallowed by an ATM, to dealing with a major PR crisis, like the time when our online banking system failed for three days. RB Jacobs was on call 24/7 and handled all queries generated on Twitter during this trying period.

Users of Twitter in SA are an influential community. Many leading journalists and editors use it. The Twitter profile is around 30+, educated and working. These are people with influence and opinions who can inflict real damage on your brand.

As you have no doubt realised by now, I’m somewhat of a Twitter evangelist, so much so that I’ve been called a “twit” myself for my dogged attachment to TweetDeck. Far from being insulted, though, I’m amused. As far as I am concerned, Twitter is fast becoming the most powerful communication channel in the world.

I was privileged to listen to Twitter co-founder Biz Stone speak at a conference in July. He shared his own experiences with companies who are using Twitter to build their brands and create enduring relationships. It’s clearly working for them!

Twitter has grown to more than 50m users globally in just two years. This growth is attributed in part to celebrity endorsements, but also to the service’s ability to deliver breaking news, sometimes ahead of traditional media.

I know there are many sceptics who question its use in business, but the sheer number of people adopting this channel to communicate cannot be ignored.

Share this article

  • http://za.charlesleaver.com/ chukaman

    ya, it’s awesome. i’m so happy with fnb & this is one of the reasons why. the other is their online branch “mybranch” which allows me to do pretty much everything i ever need to do online and without having to deal with any human. the only interaction i have with them is when i fetch new cards from the closest branch every few years. go fnb!!!!!!!

  • http://simon.co.za Simon

    I am no more impressed with companies using Twitter than I am with them using telephones. Twitter is just a simple tool – it’s what you do with it that matters.

    And no amount of PR posturing can disguise a rotten business. Using Twitter to defend a kak product is just lipstick on a pig.

    That said, FNB has hit the nail on the head with its Twitter strategy, and part of that is putting a human face on it all. The fatal flaw, however, is that RB Jacobs doesn’t exist. To savvy users, FNB may as well be tweeting as ‘FNB’.

    In fact, the RB Jacobs facade makes FNB more disingenuous in its tweeting than companies who have the balls to use their own corporate identity.

    At the end of the day we’re talking about just another South African bank here. As a happy member of the cartel, FNB is just as guilty of criminally high charges and questionable banking practices as its friends over at Absa, Nedbank or Standard Bank. And no amount of tweeting will change that.

    As an FNB customer I appreciate the attention to service that the bank is clearly displaying. I am impressed at the strategy and I’m not surprised that it’s working. Some good businesses have bad service – FNB is a bad business with good service.

  • http://www.henriska.com/blog/ Marius

    over the past 2 weeks I have battled with FNB regarding some issue … out of frustration I tweeted about it today an RB Jacobs picked it up within minutes which was good.

    That being said, the problem is not solved yet so just monitoring Twitter and responding does not solve the problem. Overall service levels need to improve drastically if FNB wants to be taken seriously in their use of Twitter.

  • https://www.fnb.co.za RB Jacobs

    Hi Marius

    With reference to our conversation. I have escalated your query to the relevant internal department. We will be in contact soon to resolve the matter.

    We apologise for any inconvenience

    Regards
    RB (@rbjacobs)
    email: rbjacobs@fnb.co.za

  • Gisele

    Gisele, congratulations on the huge strides taken by FNB lately. A fantastic start in a great communications strategy.

  • Lance

    It’s all good and well that FNB is using Twitter, but it is failing on some other basics of electronic comms. Just had two marketing messages via SMS this morning with no way of opting out – the only reason I want my bank to have my cell number is for bank statements and in-contact messages. I suspect that you can’t get in-contact messages without all the other spam, too….

  • RB Jacobs

    Hi Lance

    You can get your number removed for further marketing messages, but this wont affect your Incontact service.

    Please mail me your cell number and ill request that you be removed for future marketing.

    email: rbjacobs@fnb.co.za

  • http://www.chrismeistre.co.za/ Chris

    Does this mean I can randomly wake FNB employees in the early hours of the morning by mentioning #FNB on Twitter? :)

  • RBJacobs

    Hi Chris,

    You will be waking me, but its no problem at all. ;-)

    Im here to help. So, Tweet away.

  • http://www.brandmonday.biz #BrandMonday Founder

    We think it is wonderful that FNB embraces Twitter and interacts with its customers (and non-customers) via this additional channel.

    Interestingly enough FNB has now won the #BrandPlus Award four times. And it is not all via tweets of its staff members – unlike some suggests. We congratulate you and encourage other companies to have the courage to listen to the tweets of South Africans.

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