Renee Brown, Senior Vice President and Director of Social Media for Wells Fargo.
Wells Fargo recently unveiled a “command center” aimed at monitoring and responding to mentions and trends on various social media platforms. Renee Brown, SVP and Director of Social Media, spearheaded the initiative and recently chatted with SmartBrief to share some of the details. What follows is an edited version of that conversation.
What are the goals of the command center?
This is a capability that we have been developing for about 18 months. It is something that was one of the first items on our strategic agenda for social media for Wells Fargo. We’ve been pulling together the right infrastructure to enhance our social media capabilities for many years, so now we are building this like a business to get really serious about understanding the importance of context. Just like any other type of business, you have to understand the relativity of what is happening. You have to gauge the degree of sentiment and the degree to which a topic is trending. In order to do that, we had to improve our listening capabilities.
We did what a lot of companies do and scanned what other best-in-class companies were doing related to social listening, social metrics and analysis and this concept of a command center. Through that analysis, we decided a command center made sense for where we are in our life cycle. It would help us move from a more reactive posture to really being more proactive and granular around conversations that are happening – making sure we insert ourselves into the right conversations. Most importantly, where we are evolving to is to listen for ideas and ways to improve the customer experience.
This can be a competitive advantage for us in the marketplace because its one of the places customers are gathering around these “water coolers” and talking about matters of finance that are important to them and important to their network. For us to be around that water cooler with them is a really great place to be.
What kind of resources are being leveraged for the command center?
To have people co-located where a lot of data is being fed in can help us be faster and smarter. We have a main location in San Francisco and back-up location in Charlotte that are staffed on weekdays. We also have after-hours support from a location in Manila.
The Wells Fargo social media command center in San Francisco.
The command centers we’ve built are different from how a lot of other companies have built them. Sometimes the command centers at other organizations are meant to be a war-room; where experts go when a certain issue arises. It’s not a place where people live and breathe every day. We decided we needed a space where the people who manage our platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs – as well as care bankers and public relations – can all be together. They can see what comments are happening and moderate real-time.
What are some of the issues the command center handles most often?
The command center offers us a mirror to what we are doing. One of our best lessons learned – and this is an ongoing lesson – is that the way we communicate in a corporate and a financial manner often times confuses consumers. They don’t fully understand what it is we’re saying. That ability for us to continue to use plain language and be a lot more crisp in what we are saying is one of the things we see as an opportunity through social listening. Hypothetically, if we were to make a product change or launch a new product, social listening automatically gives us focus groups where we can get questions and clear up any miscommunication or misunderstanding. That is invaluable to us.
If we see people asking questions about certain products or a certain process that we might have in one of our business lines, those are goldmines. They show us how we can improve our communication to reduce the amount of questions that arise the next time we do something.
What kind of protocols are in place for when the command center encounters a hot issue?
We’ve created a process to make sure the command center can send data about trends or issues to the right part of the company. Some people call it “triage,” although that might sound too much like a hospital. But if you think of it in that triage sort of way, the command center can identify an issue and make sure it has more than a few people talking about to confirm it is a trend. Then the center makes sure the issue gets not only to the right group within Wells Fargo, but the right person.
For example, we are now a leading indicator if there is any issue with our ATM network. If we see more than a couple people mentioning an ATM not functioning, we get that to the right person within the company so they can take a closer look.
The product groups are super important, so we have the same triage. If we see someone talking about a specific product in a way that seems to be trending, we get that to the right product manager.
Our hope is to continue to improve the process where we can get back to the end-consumer. We haven’t fully closed that loop because right now our process is longer than the speed of social. As people get more and more used to seeing a social media alert and realizing it is something that will help, that will speed up the process.
Our nirvana is that if someone offers us an idea, tip or feedback that really helps us, we respond directly to that person and not only thank them for their business but maybe even show our appreciation in a more substantial way. That is a work in progress, but it is our hope to be able to thank them commiserate to the kind of help they’ve offered us. Consumers want to be a part of how companies serve them. If they have an idea, they like when companies listen and respond to them. So that’s what we hope to do.
How are you interacting with employees and advisers from Wells Fargo as they engage more on social media?
I would say that interaction is out biggest opportunity, but also a challenge that can be very complicated. We are talking about an employee base of around 300,000 people who handle a wide array of business responsibilities. What we’ve really focused on is making sure our team members understand the things they can do on social. But from a compliance standpoint, there are also things that we don’t want our team members to do. We gotten very specific about that. We are working on a couple of videos that we are going to launch to help clarify, in a more light-hearted way, what people can and can’t do. It gets very grey. When you think of the hat people wear on the job and the hats they wear when they are away from their job; what social media does is it blurs those lines. We want to make sure team members are very deliberate about which hat they are wearing and why they are communicating something. Using the right channel for the right purpose is super critical.
The command center doesn’t focus specifically on Wells Fargo employees. We capture every mention of Wells Fargo and if we see that its an employee, we do the right things around that and manage it appropriately.
How have you seen social media evolve in the financial services industry?
Across financial services, it varies quite substantially. If you look at the monolines like credit card companies, they have been way out in front and pushing the envelope with great offers and geo-targeting. You don’t see the bigger firms doing that kind of stuff because the complexity increases as you move from a monoline business to a highly diversified business like Wells Fargo. We have 84 different businesses that have huge ranges, including licensed people that have to follow different regulatory rules.
As the complexity of an organization increases, you see the amount of social decreases because of obvious risk components. That isn’t always the case, but there does seem to be some kind of correlation.
Wells Fargo has always prided itself on being a leader in the social space. Right now we are leading not only because of the technologies we’ve implemented, but how we’ve integrated across the company. That’s a really tough thing to do in a decentralized company, but we’ve integrated some platforms that will allow us to work smarter and keep the customer at the center of our focus. The command center is a very visible display of that. We want to do less of the talking and more of the listening. The more you listen, the more you can improve and meet the customer’s needs.