USAAWe’re excited for our client USAA as they were recognized by Forrester as a pioneer in bringing social media tactics to the financial services world. I sat down with Tom Vaughn, Director of Social Media at USAA, to talk about how we work together to make USAA more “social.”

How important is social media to USAA?

Tom Vaughn: Social media and community initiatives are critical for USAA’s continued success. We have been a word-of-mouth company since our inception in 1922, with much of our growth coming as a result of members sharing their experiences with friends and family.

Now, social media is transforming our relationships with members. Social tools allow us to better understand member needs so that we can stay engaged with our members. This ultimately results in strengthened relationships between each member and USAA.

As we improve upon these relationships, members will tell even more of their friends and family about how much they trust USAA – continuing our history of growth via word-of-mouth.

Our members want to hear from people like themselves, and user-generated content facilitates the sharing of these authentic customer stories. In addition to customer reviews on USAA.com, we’ve reached out to our members via Facebook, and even created an iPhone application that lets customers deposit checks. We’re constantly coming up with new ways to make our members’ lives easier and social media is a big part of that.

What objections did you have to overcome when creating a social strategy?

For USAA, and any financial services organization, the two main challenges lie in letting go of brand and messaging control and ensuring proper regulatory compliance. So convincing the early stakeholders of the value of encouraging authentic conversations – both positive and negative – is the first step.

No matter how excited we may get about the power of social media and communities, we will not sustain any program if we cannot figure out how to follow the regulations. Bazaarvoice’s content moderation and reporting capabilities helped us create a strategy that satisfies all the necessary compliance and reporting requirements, as well as helping key stakeholders understand the value. In fact, our legal partners trust the processes in place with Bazaarvoice so much, their first question – literally – for any proposed social project is “Is this using the Bazaarvoice platform?” If the answer is “No”, the project has a much harder time getting started and often goes back to the drawing board to figure out how to take advantage of the existing compliance procedures with Bazaarvoice.

How have member reviews helped improve the member experience at USAA.com?

Bazaarvoice categorizes every review so that it goes to the right department at USAA. Items that need customer service help are routed to the appropriate area for immediate assistance.

Our financial services department saw there was desire for members to service their CDs online. Based on the direct feedback from our members, a new online functionality was put in place and members can now change their renewal options online.

Members also tell us that these authentic stories and testimonials help them make a more informed decision before opening a new account or service.

How has Bazaarvoice helped you roll out your new social initiatives?

As one of the first financial services firms to dive into social media, we were excited about the opportunity to really explore what our members were saying about us. The Bazaarvoice team offered great suggestions and guidance to help with the introduction of the new social initiatives.

It was important to us that the posted reviews accurately reflected how members rated our products. You gave us great advice and suggested that we compile reviews for two weeks before publishing them. This approach ensured we had sufficient volume to stabilize the ratings so that a single review didn’t drastically change things.

The Bazaarvoice team also shared examples of how other companies used reviews to improve all areas of their business. By doing so, you helped us determine how to get the right reviews to the right people to address USAA member concerns.

What’s next for USAA in the social realm?

We’ll continue to innovate across all channels – social, mobile, online and more. The case study with Forrester gives some good examples of how members and USAA are seeing mutual benefit from reviews and online Q&A. You’ll see us continue to lead how financial services firms use social media to reach their clients – through collaborative and engaging communities, mobile capabilities that make members’ lives easier and online tools to help with all facets of members’ financial world.

ForresterCongratulations to Tom and the entire USAA team.

To learn more about USAA’s success with Social, read the Forrester case study.