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The Big Brand Theory: TD Bank's Social Customer Service


ImageCustomer 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.”

ImageWhen 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.”

Join The Conversation

  • RicDragon's picture
    May 14 Posted 3 years ago RicDragon

    Nice, Amber. Thanks!

  • RicDragon's picture
    May 14 Posted 3 years ago RicDragon

    Agreed, Bob. That's what was cool about my interview with Frank Eliason back in March - how the social media (or marketing exec) was helping to drive a change in the whole organization.  Eliason joked about banks sending a customer to speak with a "loss mitigation specialist" - and how the bank really needs to rethink the customer experience from the ground up.  An organization that isn't already customer-centric isn't going to magically become so through social; but it's cool how it can be a starting point.

    Thanks so much for the comment!


  • Bob Bornhofen's picture
    May 13 Posted 3 years ago Bob Bornhofen

    What TD Bank does so well is indicative of the cultural current that still runs though its rank and file – just as it did in the early days of the company.  Trying to transform an established, mature organization into the “TD Bank model” (e.g., employees proudly wearing their ID badges OUTSIDE the bank) is very, very difficult to do. I argue that in most cases the organizational culture cannot bend enough to adopt a change of this caliber.   It’s best to start fresh -- as in a new subsidiary. What’s required is a totally different mindset (behavior & attitude) that is inherent among the people carefully screened and hired. I’m reminded of the flight attendants at Southwest Airlines; for the most part their employees have the interpersonal skills and fun attitude that most legacy airlines cannot easily adopt.    

  • ambarmstrong's picture
    May 12 Posted 3 years ago ambarmstrong

    Wendy Arnott presented at an IBM conference on this topic:

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