Keeping customers informed is an important part of our engagement strategy and a way of building strong, long-term relationships with those who choose to save and borrow with us.
The challenge is not only how to make this content engaging, but also how best to share it. We are living in a time when technology is offering a multitude of choices for accessing news and information both at home and on the move.
And while this holds considerable appeal on the one hand, it does make it far more difficult to grab people’s attention.
News and views
A key tool for sharing regular customer communications is the West Brom website, and in particular our news page which is updated most weeks with articles, interviews and features.
We cover stories relating to the Society in general, our products and services and the role the West Brom plays in local communities, including volunteer work and fundraising for charities.
We asked customer panel members to tell us whether or not they make use of this information resource and if so, what they think of the quality and relevance of the content.
Almost a third of respondents said they were regular visitors to the website and used it to read up on news. They appreciated its colourful layout with good use of imagery, found the pages simple to navigate and agreed articles were usually relevant and engaging.
There were suggestions for improvements, with most agreeing more features that offer tips and best practice for managing your money would enhance the site. Greater use of interactive objects and video reports also rated highly.
For those customers not visiting the site, many felt an email containing news ‘snippets’ and links to the full online articles would be more effective. Some only used the website to view product information, while others felt more comfortable getting Society news from leaflets in their local branch.
A more traditional approach to customer communications comes in the form of the West Brom’s printed magazine, Connect. While available online, the main source of distribution for the publication is via our branches.
A third of panel members said they were familiar with Connect and 58% said their preference was to read it in hardcopy format (ie as a printed publication). When rating the overall quality of the magazine, the highest scores were for it being easy to read, informative and about the right length.
Some felt the front cover could be more eye-catching, but agreed the use of imagery and photographs was good. Looking at areas for improvement and a greater focus on West Brom products and services was the most sought after change.
Other suggestions included covering industry news, reporting more on the Society’s work in the community and publishing customer case studies.
We wanted to take this opportunity to ask customers about social media and its possible use for relaying and sharing Society information. This isn’t something we do at present, but it has been adopted by some financial institutions and many other brands, businesses and service providers.
Respondents from the customer panel were almost equally split in terms of those who use social media (52%) and those who avoid it (48%). Facebook was by far the most popular outlet, followed by Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.
The main reason for using social media was to keep in touch with people. Accessing news and sport was also mentioned, along with following specific brands and businesses and raising customer service queries.
We then asked if social media users would want to keep in touch with the West Brom this way and 30% said yes. Relevant content, they said, would include product information, Society news, branch activities, opening hours and trends in the wider savings and housing market.
How this helps us
Customer insight around how we communicate with you and what sort of information you prefer us to share is particularly helpful and will be used to develop our communications strategy.
Nick Trueman, the West Brom’s PR Manager, said: “When we are investing in customer communications they have to be accessible and user-friendly. We’ve appreciated the chance to interact with real West Brom customers in order to gather feedback and are pleased that the overall reaction to the information circulated is positive.
“We can see there is some work to do in terms of raising awareness of our website and encouraging customers to engage with it, as well as trying to increase the readership of Connect.
“The survey has shown very clear preferences for the type of content customers relate to and that will certainly help us refine what we present in the future.
“An area for potential development is undoubtedly social media. The statistics demonstrate that, while it isn’t everyone’s preferred channel of communication, we do have a sizeable number of customers who see it as a useful way of keeping up to date on issues that matter to them.
“We will start investigating how feasible it might be to share selected content this way, but not to the point where it detracts from more traditional methods which definitely still have their place.”