Trade war concerns, uncertainty over Federal Reserve rate policy, mid-year market panic, and a sharp decline in the Bloomberg U.S. Financial Conditions Index kept financial services brands and their customers on their toes throughout 2019. Even before COVID-19 hit, experts had predicted that the financial services industry was in for a similarly bumpy ride in 2020.
Now with the economy upside down and consumers scrambling to find solutions and information they can trust, financial services brands have a pivotal role to play. Trust, communication, and reputation have never been so crucial. And now, it’s all happening online.
How can your financial services brand earn consumers’ trust and deliver the service your customers need at this critical juncture? You may be surprised at how important a role your online reviews have taken on.
Financial services customers are looking for trust, reassurance, and dependability of brands.
The financial uncertainty created by the Coronavirus pandemic has been likened to the economic turmoil of 2008—and it’s not over yet. Small businesses are in serious trouble; more than 25% anticipate declaring bankruptcy in the next six months. McKinsey estimates that credit losses could exceed $1 trillion.
Even so, banks and insurance companies came into the crisis with ample capital and liquidity. Many have transitioned fairly seamlessly to new service models that reflect the needs of a socially distant clientele: virtual banking, drive-thru ATMs, banking online, and telephone or video consultations have all become the norm as entire companies have gone remote.
Financial services brands are uniquely positioned to be a calming influence and bring order to consumers’ chaos. People are looking for reassurance that their savings and investments, credit, and financing are safe and secure.
While there are different methods of calculating jobs lost, experts estimate that between 20 and 40 million positions were lost as a result of Coronavirus-related shutdowns. Low-income earners were hit particularly hard, as the Federal Reserve reported that 39% of former workers came from households earning $40,000 or less. Two-thirds of Americans (68%) fear that the coronavirus will have a long-lasting impact on the economy.
And when the chips are down, we turn to the people and entities we trust for support.
A survey conducted as the lockdown took effect showed that 40% of respondents wanted to know what brands were doing in response to the pandemic. Forty-three percent said they wanted to hear things that were “reassuring from the brands I know and trust.”
Trust and dependability are key components of the relationship between your brand its customers, and that has never been more important than it is now.
Financial services consumers read reviews to evaluate their options.
Online reviews have long been an important aspect of your brand’s overall digital presence. A 2019 survey found that 92% of consumers read reviews before making a purchase, and over half (56%) read at least four—12% require 10 or more reviews to satisfy their craving for social validation.
Reviews are especially compelling in finance, where consumer trust is low. Financial services have been rock-bottom on the Edelman Trust Barometer since 2012, although the industry has improved from “distrusted” to the least trusted of neutral industries over the past years.
Edelman also found that fully 64% of consumers now identify as belief-driven buyers who agree that brands are a powerful force for change. These people vote with their wallet and will choose, switch, avoid, or boycott brands based on their perception of the brand’s alignment with their values.
Online reviews are a critical feedback channel for your customers.
What’s more, your online review profile plays a huge role in Reputation Management and impacts your visibility and rankings in search, as well.
When it comes to your local presence in the Map Pack, review signals make up 15.44% of the factors Google considers in its rankings. The algorithm takes into account the number and diversity of reviews, your overall star ratings, and how recent the reviews are. Local search expert Joy Hawkins shared a case study that illustrates the rankings impact of reviews using real businesses—you can see that here.
How financial services brands can build trust with online reviews.
Whether you have an online reviews strategy in place and are looking to improve or you haven’t started yet and aren’t sure where to start, these best practices apply across the financial services industry.
Always respond to reviews—every single one.
Consumers aren’t only looking for other people’s feedback about a business. They want to see the brand engaging and responding, as well. In fact, 53% of customers expect businesses to respond to negative reviews within a week.
Negative reviews can seriously impact the business. A 2019 study found that businesses with 1 to 1.5-star rating on Google generated 33% less revenue than the average business. This doesn’t have to be your fate, though.
The same research found that businesses that reply to more than 20% of their reviews generate 33% more revenue than average.
Respond as quickly as possible.
The vast majority of negative reviews aren’t made out of spite. Behind the review is a customer whose experience with your brand didn’t meet their expectations. The faster you can intervene and provide customer service via response and escalation, if necessary, the greater your likelihood of converting that unhappy customer into a loyal one.
In a recent study, 70% of consumers said that a brand’s response to an online review changed their perception of the brand by making them feel that the brand really cares about customers, has great customer service, and is trustworthy. In fact, 45% of consumers say they’re more likely to visit a business that responds to negative reviews.
And the quicker you respond, the more customers are willing to spend with you in the future, as evidenced in this Harvard Business Review study.
For multi-location brands, that means having the local reviews technology and expertise in place to:
- Constantly monitor for reviews in real-time across all locations and third-party review platforms
- Triage reviews, providing an immediate response or assigning to the correct team for review and response
- Respond to all reviews within a single dashboard
- Analyze review sentiment, identify top performers, and benchmark location performance against local competitors
- Access expert advice and manual intervention with review removal requests and other less common (but time consuming) issues
Learn more about how to manage negative online reviews here.
Never delete negative reviews.
Financial services customers aren’t looking for a perfect 5.0 review profile. In fact, 5-star businesses earn less than 1-1.5 star businesses as consumers tend to distrust perfect scores. Ratings in the 3.5-4.5 star range show customers that your reviews profile is authentic and trustworthy.
“Financial Institutions and advisers have an incredible opportunity when it comes to reputation management. Listening to and incorporating client feedback provides financial organizations a method to highlight areas to be improved and identifies successes to be replicated. This allows you to remain competitive when clients see you committed to delivering a meaningful banking or investment experience.” –Krystal Taing, Director of Local Strategy at Rio SEO
Negative reviews can help you identify opportunities to improve customer service and operations. Embrace them!
Invite customers to leave reviews and make the process seamless for them.
Sixty-eight percent of customers will leave a review if you ask. However, to avoid going astray of GMB’s review solicitation guidelines, you should never offer money or merchandise in exchange for a review. Businesses are not permitted to:
- Offer incentives in exchange for reviews
- Author positive reviews in an attempt to boost their star rating
- Attempt to delete negative reviews
Decide where it’s most advantageous to send customers to leave a review. You may direct them to your website for a time to build first-party reviews, for example, then switch to a third-party review site such as Google or Yelp to build your profile there, as well. Keep an eye out for any changes or updates in your review platforms, as well.
The bottom line: online reviews drive trust and local visibility for financial services brands.
Reviews can be a major strategic opportunity to drive higher visibility in Search, increase engagement and conversions (online or in-branch), and foster trust between your brand and the customers you serve. By actively participating in the dialog with your audience and being responsive, you are positively influencing consumer perception of your company and the experience they can expect from working with you.
Want to learn more about mastering your local marketing strategy?
- Explore local technology and service solutions for multi-location financial service brands
- Read Local Reviews Strategy: 10 Ways to Make Yours Smarter & More Effective
Take advantage of a free Local Presence Audit to see how your bank branches or investment and insurance offices stack up against the competition