Customer service professionals tend to collect customer service stories. When the barista at the corner coffee shop commits an act of unparalleled customer service; or, perhaps, the call center operator is rude, we’re there, taking notes. Vinoo Vijay, Chief of Marketing at TD Bank, recently shared a story with me about someone stepping out from behind a counter to help customers. “This is really the way to do service,” he says, “because you’re not saying, ‘I’m going to wait for the question to come to me; I’m going to wait for problems, and for the most part I’m going to make it harder for someone to get a hold of me because I have less problems to solve.’ I’d rather step in front and see how I can understand customers’ questions and problems and proactively give them the opportunity to solve it.”
When TD Bank was formed in 1955 from the amalgamation of two venerable Canadian banking institutions, the Bank of Toronto and the Dominion Bank, the bank officers wanted to emphasize service. Or, as the slogan professed, “The best in banking service.” That ethos survives in the bank’s DNA to this day.
I was hoping to learn from Vijay how an organization that is both fanatical in its approach to customer service and in a regulated industry would make use of social media to further its purpose. Vijay says, “TD Bank employees wear their badge when they leave the office. When I go to lunch, I don’t take it off; it’s a part of who I am, and it’s a part of the way I represent myself and my company when I’m engaging with consumers and non-consumers with my life.”
Vijay continues, “The way I think about social is very much the same, whatever we’re doing or wherever we are, we wear our badge. And so to the extent that we would do that physically; it’s reasonable to do; otherwise we don’t encourage it.”
There is a point when the line between marketing and customer service becomes blurred. Vijay is dismissive of marketing that interrupts customers because it doesn’t create a great experience. In speaking of the marketing mix, Vijay talks of traditional advertising as “by definition, interruption-oriented,” and moving marketing budget “more to environments like digital and social and other kinds of video content that can feel natural to the customer’s experience.”
Most marketers seek situations in which they can see a direct cause and effect between social media and revenue. For Vijay, the key metrics lie in whether customers are posting and responding to questions that are of genuine interest to them, and if the organization responds in a genuine and honest and “not a cookie cutter response that somebody would get on another site.”
The bank also follows up with all customer engagement, and measure what they call a “Customer WOW! Index.” This same set of metrics is used for social media, just as it is with any other form of customer engagement.
While Vijay is bullish on social, he thinks of it as another tool. “The key to using it well,” he shares, “is really staying true to who you are as a company and what you stand for. Whenever we think about this or any tool, we’re always coming back and grounding ourselves in what makes us distinctive; why do consumers choose us? We want to manifest that honestly across all the platforms which consumers can engage us. And what we’re about is service and convenience. As long as we deliver on that across all platforms including social we know we’ll continue to grow.”