Forums are essentially the online manifestation of a community bulletin board: a place where any member of the public can post information that they deem important or worthy of sharing with others. While the the chore of creating, printing and pasting a material notification has historically dissuaded everyone besides the most vigilant citizens—and losers of pets—from pasting information on these boards, this is not the case in the online environment. As evidenced in the continued success of the Trade Me forum, people are seemingly more willing to contribute to debates centred on community issues when they find themselves in the online realm.
And despite the fact this online correspondence between the denizens of New Zealand's matrix sometimes breeds a fair share of vitriol, BNZ is now also getting involved in the world of forums by launching BNZ Community, a social hub "where New Zealanders can give, and get, guidance on all things banking and money-related".
Coinciding with the start of Money Week, BNZ’s director of retail and marketing Craig Herbison says that BNZ Community will help make it easier for New Zealanders to talk about money and banking.
BNZ Community has two main components: a forum where users can post a query, start up a conversation and search out the best answers to questions; and the separate ‘Good with Money’ blog, where BNZ's staff will be providing information on how customers can be smarter with their money.
This separation is an important one, because it allows forum commenters a level of autonomy that's discrete from BNZ's corporate machine. Herbison does however add that there will be a certain degree of moderation in the forum.
"Similar to what BNZ does in its other social media channels, it will be moderating content, but in a way that focuses on promoting open dialogue and user privileges while ensuring a safe environment for all users."
And to ensure that the forum doesn't turn into a customer complaints board—as is sometimes the case with Facebook pages—BNZ has set up a rewards programme that will give "expert" contributors points, which can redeemed for a range of benefits determined by the bank.
"At the moment, points can be used to gain benefits inside the Community, for example, being able to change avatars, ranking up and badges," says Herbison. "As the Community matures, super users may be able to gain Moderator status. Eventually, BNZ would like to see the Community grow to the point where users may be run their own boards and self moderate."
Herbison says that this project is designed to further consolidate the bank's position in the digital space.
“We know that our customers are increasingly seeking advice online, and that they treat advice from peers and online experts with high regard," he says. "We’ve launched BNZ Community to foster these really important conversations, and encourage a culture of peer-to-peer support in banking.”
Herbison says that content shared on the forum will also serve as an indicator of elements that BNZ should improve across its offering. It will effectively give the bank first-hand insight on kinks that might need to be ironed out in order to appease customers. But Herbison adds that this isn't markedly different from what BNZ is already doing elsewhere.
“YouMoney is a great example of this because we’ve been constantly listening to our customers’ feedback and using it to make improvements," he says. “BNZ Community will facilitate this on a larger scale; helping us to deliver what our customers want and letting them be a part of our mission to help New Zealanders be good with money."
This move also serves as a continuation of the growing emphasis that banks are placing on digital publishing. Recently, StopPress published an article outlining some of the key moves being made by that nation's major banks and, in that instance, attention was drawn to BNZ's GoodHome online initiative, which is designed to provide readers with expert tips on how to save money on mortgage repayments.
The BNZ Community initiative is however different in the sense that it is based on crowd-sourced tips shared between those interested in the banking industry. And BNZ isn't the only bank turning to its customers to share their insights. As part of an initiative called ASB Money Tips, ASB has created a series of video tips in response to feedback provided by customers.
Speaking on the decision to create the content, ASB's general manager of marketing Anna Curzon said that the bank decided to focus on common customer queries to determine what kind of content to post on the YouTube channel. So, rather than attempting to create something for popularity's sake, ASB took the approach of creating content that customers would find useful.
And given that BNZ has now created a forum specifically designed to accommodate the queries, concerns and insights of customers, it provides the bank with a means by which to investigate those issues and respond accordingly. The only problem with this approach is that the forum moderators will potentially have to sieve through a fair quantity of bank hate to find the pieces of constructive criticism that can be used to improve its offering.