Reputation management and how to repair a broken one.
I thought of penning down this piece after a lot of negative customer feedback made two major Kenyan banks trend on Twitter in the same week.
Its been a tough week for some these bank’s customers. Some could not access their money or transact while others complained of fraud where they lost a lot of money. I wish to desist from mentioning names to avoid any further reputation damage.
As a result, I decided to make banking reputation management my article subject even though the insights shared can be applied in other sectors.
First and foremost with an already broken reputation, it is vital that the marketing or reputation management departments of this banks don’t attempt to rush the healing process. Credibility is quickly damaged but takes far longer to repair. If bank’s marketers push too soon, they risk undermining their own efforts and losing any trust they are able to claw back. Restoring confidence slowly is the only way these banks can improve perceptions, but where should they start? In my view, it has to happen from the inside out.
Today, marketing in the banking sector needs to be more grounded and sympathetic, not brash and overly assertive. Nor should the banks try to curry favour with customers through trivial offers. At best this just leaves people feeling indifferent. To reach and engage disenfranchised customers, banks have to really listen and genuinely change their behaviors.
This should also be an opportunity for these banks to build a better relationship with its customers by formulating a plan that would make them more friendly and helpful for improved customer relationships.
Right from the start of the entire reputation restoration process, they have to be very aware that they have to go an extra mile to win back its customers’ confidence. However, for changes be effective over the long term, I believe they must be accompanied by cultural change within them.
Marketers that work with this banks should help them bring their customers’ complaints, concerns and preferences sensitively to the attention of browbeaten and disillusioned employees in an empathetic way. People assume that banks are callous and unrepentant, but I’ve seen first-hand just how affected banking staff can be.
Some of the solutions the bank marketers can implement are live interviews, video, animation and infographics to bring staff closer to customers and highlight what customers value. It’s important to get the customer’s view across in a way that conveys a balanced cross section of opinion. There’s no point in having customers beat you with a big stick. Equally, it doesn’t help to have only satisfied customers singing your praises, because it’s not representative of overall sentiment.
Giving ordinary people the opportunity to air their views and for these views to be heard by all banking employees can make a difference to both staff morale and customer confidence. Having customers speak at a live event can also be very impactful in building the reputation but its challenging to do for many reasons. You can replicate the experience on video to an extent but you lose a certain level of acceptance, because staff know it’s been edited.
Senior leadership teams should also find effective ways to create banking cultures that recognizes the importance of making the customer experience as positive as it can be. It easy to forget that having a banking license is a privilege, in return for which the bank is expected to serve the public.
As a way of returning to the essential values that banks stand for and remind staff of their contribution to society beyond making money, they should tone down branding at the internal events and build for clients, and never use it on public signage. This is partly for privacy, but also to keep focused on what’s important.
There’s perhaps too much emphasis on brands in marketing today, but its not much helpful for banks at the moment. They need staff to reconnect with why they do what they do, and to remember that everything starts with the customer.
As employees begin to appreciate where customers are coming from, and if customers start to feel their bank cares about them, I’m hopeful that over time the damage caused will repair itself to create a better, more approachable banking sector.
That’s not to underestimate the real problems here. There is no short-term fix for this situations. Understandably the Kenyan public are resentful and suspicious of the banking sector, and it’s questionable whether banks will ever rebuild their reputation entirely. But if marketers and reputation management experts take a sensible and sensitive view, and banks demonstrate they are willing to change, there’s every chance the sector can win back the public’s trust.
Written and edited by Edwin Kariuki