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The Big Brand Theory: Discover Making Customers Visible


I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. (...) When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination, indeed, everything and anything except me. ― Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

In Ellison's classic novel, the greatest horror is being rendered invisible. It's no wonder that the idea of reflective listening and acknowledgement is often a key element in psychotherapy; it's healing to be seen and heard - in short, to be engaged with.

ImageWhile engagement is a term that's often bandied about in social media marketing, a review of dozens of large brand social accounts will show that real engagement isn’t too common. How can a brand with hundreds of thousands, if not millions of connections, scale response? When I recently spoke with Dan Gingiss, the Director of Digital Customer Experience at Discover, he reminded me that not only can a large brand be engaging, but also that such engagement can be the fundamental underpinning to social media strategy.

"Best-in-class customer service"

ImageMost financial institutions don’t even allow people to post on their Facebook page. Discover is an exception to that trend. Gingiss said, "The overall philosophy that we're going by is that we want to be able to service customers in the channel in which they want to be serviced. When people are communicating with us on Facebook or Twitter, it's fair to say they don't want to communicate with us on the phone, email or any other channel we offer. We want to be understanding of that and want to make sure they're getting the answers they came for.”

When you open up Facebook and visit Discover’s page, you’ll see that whenever a visitor posts a comment, one of the Discover community managers responds. They’re truly living one-to-one engagement.

Using a third-party app to keep the conversation on the platform

Many people in controlled industries cite regulatory issues as an impediment to really embracing social media. Discover uses the LivePerson [] platform to allow community managers and customer service team members to initiate a secure chat right from Facebook or Twitter. Since the company already uses LivePerson for their web-based customer service, the reps are already trained on it.  Gingiss said, “we’ll send you back a personalized link that will allow you to open a secure chat session with one of our reps and therefore you don't really have to leave Facebook or Twitter; you're basically on the same screen. We can take you into a secure platform where we can authenticate you and your account.” From there, the customer can be verified and the rep can answer account-related questions.

Unified social accounts.

Another big difference with Discover is that you won’t find dozens of different Twitter accounts for the financial service company. This was based on a conscious decision on the part of the Discover management team. As Gingiss explained, “it’s sort of a prelude to our being able to market service as a benefit of the card. We think today, keeping our servicing in the public space within the same handle as our marketing allows our service to really be a piece of our marketing. People who follow us see that we're answering customers’ questions - we're very up front and we're very fast in our response.” 

As the following Twitter exchange shows - and it's only one example of many - prompt one-on-one responses can not only mollify an upset customer, but can help develop that person and others following along into true advocates.



The Big Brand Theory is an exclusive column for Social Media Today written by Ric Dragon that explores the social media strategies of big brands, both B2B and B2C. Look for the next installment next week. Logos by Jesse Wells.

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