ASB New Zealand Offering Branch-Style Chat Via Facebook

by Mercator Advisory Group 0

The “virtual branch” phrase is subject to wide interpretation, but here is another variation. ASB in New Zealand, which prides itself on being forward thinking, has created a downloadable app for its Facebook page which supports real-time chat with real bank staffers. Users were asked to “like” the bank if they liked the app.

According to The Financial Brand:

“Within its first few weeks, ASB had amassed some 2,500 “likes.” By November 2010, that number had grown to 12,500, and today, the bank’s Facebook page has 16,405 “likes,” with the majority choosing to install the Virtual Branch application.”

The welcoming “concierge” is a not-too appealing, avatar-like blonde with slightly stilted speech and robotic body movements, but once the app is installed the eight designated staffers are presented in photos. They are not individually named, but based on the screen shots offered by The Financial Brand, they do take on personal names when one chats with them. What is most surprising, in evaluating this tactical move, is the choice of Facebook as a first “chat” platform. As noted by The Financial Brand:

“Presently, ASB does not provide live online chat anywhere except Facebook. It’s a bit surprising that the bank would prioritize a Facebook app over a live chat feature on its website, especially when so much of its brand is built around a personal, one-to-one style of service. ASB’s homepage even sports a giant “Hello,” even though there’s no one to talk to.”

One has to wonder if the supposed “cool factor” has led the bank to allocate resources and prioritize its efforts less than optimally…

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