Friday, May 22, 2009

Financial Services and Web 2.0: Having your Cake and Eating it Too

I love my bank. I’ve been with them since I was sixteen and opened my first checking account.

The same banker added my husband to that same account the day before we got married (I was practical, I wanted him to be able to pay for dinner on our honeymoon).

As I’ve moved around, I’ve gotten to know people in the branches in the three different counties that I’ve lived in, with a 100 mile spread. My local branch cheered me on as I boldly opened my business account in the depths of recession. They’ve met my kids, they know my name.

They call occasionally to tell me I’ve made a math error on a deposit slip or something, but generally, they’re a nice, standoffish, reliable bank (exactly what I want in a bank I think).

Recently, I wrote about choosing to refinance my mortgage from our 30 year fixed rate to a 15 year mortgage. I wrote about Smart Hippo, and immediately got a follow from three SmartHippo twitter Accounts (@smarthippo if you want to follow their "tweets").

I shopped the amazing deals on SmartHippo and came away armed with the security of having a really, really good idea of what’s going on in the market, and I called my bank and asked them to make me a deal I couldn’t refuse. They did.

A few weeks later, I was surprised to hear from Smart Hippo again (via Twitter) saying “how’s that re-fi going?”

Whoa!! Step back a minute! This is a FREE service, and they have no need to work hard to retain me as a customer—how often does someone refinance? This is something new and different… a relationship with a financial services provider online…..

Yesterday we closed on our loan with Columbia Bank at 4.6%. Today, as I stepped out my door with the kids to walk them to school, a woman arrived carrying a box. Inside was this cake from Smart Hippo congratulating us on our refinance.

Well, we’re “tickled pink” by the prospects of owning our home outright 20 years sooner, but it’s cool to know someone else is excited about it too, and the kids…. Well, let’s just say, the cake has been the topic of the day and they keep asking when they can eat dinner so they can bust into the cake.

The poor delivery woman seemed confused though. She looked at me blankly and said “Let me get this straight. You refinance your house and a pink hippo sends you a cake?”

My oldest daughter said “Yes, I think that’s about it.”

The cake lady shrugged and left laughing.

Thanks @SmartHippo for managing relationships with your clients and showing the power of social media to spread the message. How often is it that we find a company or product that we’re so happy about that you want to broadcast it? I do this frequently on Twitter and have many Twitter followers within the companies. I’ve asked for web site and tech support help, and posted product requests (for instance “hey, Mint, I really want to see my assets in my account so it doesn’t look like a black hole) and Smarty Pig has helped me with several questions all via Twitter or Facebook.

In the spirit of #FollowFriday here’s my list to check out—companies that I’m super-happy with (as a customer) and would without hesitation (and with no need or expectation of baked-goods in return) recommend to others. @SmartHippo, @SmartyPig, @RobGarciasJ (from Lending Club) @Lisa_Pertuity (form Pertuity Direct) and @Mintdotcom. You can follow this blog @prosperlending.

Got an opinion? Tweet me at @jessc098 and tell me all about it (but I’m afraid my startup budget doesn’t include baked goods), so you'll have to settle for a prompt reply.

Jessica Ward is a freelance writer in Seattle Washington. She blogs about motherhood, adoption, personal finance and business. You can read more about her at


Tom said...

Tickled pink? :)

JessicaW said...

Perhaps it's a regional expression? It means happy/amused.

George Favvas said...

Hi Jessica,

Congrats again on the refi and we're thrilled that SmartHippo was able to help you get a great deal.

This is a very exciting time in the world of finance because the tables are turning and consumers will now be running the show. I hope you follow us as we launch new products and services on the SmartHippo platform, and let us know how we can be better.

We're listening.

John Philip Green said...

hahaha. nice cake! that's good customer service... good job smarthippo.