Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, It is a great honor to be part of the celebration of the Institute’s 22nd National Banking Conference in this manner. I love telling stories, so I will like to share one to put things in perspective.
Yesterday, I called my branch manager and asked for a solution to a problem. As a non banker, but one who has had customer service experience with a lot of banks, both as a stakeholder and as a priority customer, I knew what I was asking for was not impossible, just unconventional. The problem I presented to my branch manager was that a group of people had formed an association some months ago, and appointed me as president and needed a bank account opened. Since we had not received all the paper work from the registrar general’s office and yet needed to start paying in some monies for a project that was time bound, I wanted to find out if there was any way this association could piggy back on my KYC so an account could be opened for us and we could start paying in some monies. The plan was to regularize things within a week as soon as our paper documents were received from the registered generals’ department. Now I believe every banker here can relate to this request I put before my branch manager. Without batting an eyelid, she predictably said there was nothing that could be done and that there was no way any account could be opened without the required documents.
I believe this conversation I had with my branch manager sets the tone for our lecture this morning. What is our role as customers in the banking environment? Who determines this role and who champions and manages the ever changing role and expectations of the customer? Do we customers dare to have expectations? Is the banking sector aware that we have expectations as customers and how prepared are they to meet them?
The presence of a customer is a non negotiable instrument in every business. There is The Business, which is depicted in the products and services on offer; the Market, that is the customers, who have purchasing power, with unmet needs waiting to be satisfied and then lastly, the Money, that is profit or wealth creation.
The above factors are interlocked with The Customers right at the middle, so when Peter Drucker was going to present to the World who a Customer is in his
book -the practice of management (1954), he said, and I quote – “There is only
one purpose of a business: to create A CUSTOMER” unquote – The centrality of every business in any sector still revolves around this undeniable fact: TO CREATE A CUSTOMER.
Unfortunately the World has placed first on their priority list, the pursuit of profit as the basis of business instead of the creation of a well satisfied customer, with unforgettable experience; a customer that carries positive reference power of the business, a customer that develops natural bonding with the business, a customer whose needs have been met with great ease and at a competitive price of the business products or services. The Banking sector in any economy does not operate in a vacuum but within a society; its purpose therefore cannot be different. We are here today for this fundamental TRUTH- to create a customer!! John Wanamaker puts the centrality of a Customer to a business more bluntly, and I quote; “When a customer enters my store, forget me. He is king.” Unquote.
First of all Banks need to know the Customers both at the personal level and at the business level. As they say in our local parlance, when you know someone during the day you do not need a lantern to recognize them at night. Can we consider the implications of this when you carry out transactions, when you need a facility or when the bank is doing a KYC review. In the scenario I gave earlier, If I am a priority customer, what is the point in long cumbersome processes that frustrate us when you could actually “customize”.
I will try to elaborate further using The Parable of the Twins:
These twins, even though they are from the same womb, are different – one is
Visible and the other Invisible. Also with the Invisible Twin, some are in the non involvement category and others of low net worth.
- a) According to Nigel Slack & co (2012) operations and process management, Where customers do not experience or are not exposed directly to the business processes, the customer is an Invisible A typical example is when we buy off the shelf the products of Unilever or Nestle the customer is Invisible because of their non involvement in the operational processes that brought the products to the shelves.
- b) Customers with Low net worth also constitute an Invisible Twin in the Banking This is simply because this customer’s deposit is almost insignificant, and most withdrawals go unnoticed. He is absolutely invisible and yet is very much a customer!
The opposite, according to Nigel Slack and co is the visible twin – the customer upon whom
- a) The processes have an The Service provider’s response time can instantly be experienced by the customer in the same way as their body language, and customer service skills set can be assessed. In this regard, the challenge lies in managing the customer interface as a result of high visibility in the banking sector. A customer parks his car, walks in to the banking hall and meets different staff whilst transacting a business. He is very much involved as the banking operation processes take place in real time.
- b) In the same way, the visible twin has a High net worth – Every bank desires to have this type of His deposits are really big and in the same vein, their withdrawals could also make the bank branch catch instant cold! He is a highly visible customer in that he can be seen or noticed.
The analysis is simply that, it goes without question that the needs of the twins are different and as aptly expressed by Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple, “Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves”. Unfortunately what happens instead is that, because some customers of the bank have shown bad faith before, in order to minimize risk, the banks feel compelled to make their processes long and cumbersome, without making any distinction in the twins.
Allow me a moment to vent a few of the frustrations
A customer may issue a cheque with uncleared effects in a particular account. Some banks unfortunately may not consider the fact that She may have another account in the same bank with more than enough money. Why would they dishonor the cheque when they could have made a temporary arrangement to use the money in the other account in order for the customer not to be embarrassed? One customer I spoke with said the inflexible nature of bank polices makes them feel as though they were dealing with robots. I will urge the bankers to make a distinction between the twins- CUSTOMISE!
It is a fact that Customer expectations keep changing. I will like to share a few.
- Customers expect to be provided with convenience. Customers do not have time to spare as they have many things that compete for their time which is their most scarce Banks must provide products and services in such a way that they save clients on time and give them utmost convenience. This means that In Developing their products Banks must think about the client each step of the process; Banks should not make their control processes seem more important to them than ensuring the customers get positive responses.
- Generally every bank displays (service level agreement) SLA but most customers do not read these promised level of The customer’s cognition template is programmed with a personal service level mindset (PSLM) and his expectations revolve around his mindset of the type of services his banker should render to him. That is why when a customer applies for a loan, the (Debt service ratio) DSR on his salary is immaterial to him, Though the DSR states an employee’s loan repayment must not exceed 33% of the monthly salary, this does not concern the customer; all he wants is another loan to pay the son’s school fees! Managing the bank’s standard and the customer’s expectations – the GAPS and the complaints is the hallmark of customer service. That is the real challenge. How can the banking sector manage the ever changing expectations of the customer?
Richard Branson, founder of virgin Group said and I quote “Setting customer expectations at a level that is aligned with consistently deliverable levels of customer service requires that your whole staff, from product development to marketing works in harmony with your brand image”
Seymour Fine, the author of The Marketing of Ideas and Social Issues, identifies the value that comes from customer complaints. “When a customer complains, he is doing you a special favor; he is giving you another chance to serve him to his satisfaction. You will appreciate the importance of this opportunity when you consider that the customer’s alternative option was to desert you for a competitor.” In Ghana, when a customer complains, he is branded as troublesome.
Customers are looking for security for their accounts as well their data with their banks. Frauds and compromises of customer data make customers feel violated and subsequently lose confidence in banks and in the banking system. Customers expect that Banks and their staff do not create situations where their accounts and transactions are not kept confidential. Banks must invest in security solutions that help prevent cyber crime and data leakage. I remember some time ago we dehired one of our signatories who had been fraudulent. Imagine our horror when despite our numerous letters to our bankers informing them of the fraud and letters indicating change in signatories, we discovered a whole year later that they still had this thief as signatory in their system and were apparently still calling him to confirm cheques. I am sure you can guess what my bankers did next?
They apologized profusely after WE had discovered their negligence and they explained their branches had forgotten to make change in their system about the change in signatory. You can’t help but sing that a day of reckoning will come soon….Bobolibobo
- Customers expectations are that banks must help them save money, help them make money. Where Banks make clients lose money by either not suggesting the most optimal solutions or by just not advising them in a timely manner, then they fail in a fundamental duty.
- Customers expect banks to put more control in their hands as far as their transactions and reporting are This should largely be driven by technology. Clients expect that Banks introduce cutting edge solutions that help them initiate more and more transactions and instructions to the banks from the comfort of anywhere and on the go. Customers want to do this in a secure manner and without hitches. Customers do not want their bank to invest in technology that rather complicates their lives. The customer in Ghana wants technology that is simple and easy to use. In all these, the customer wants to be empowered where they can do most of the things they could have relied on a bank to do for them- apply for loans online and get a response without going all the way to the bank.
- In the UK, the Treating Customers Fairly (TCF) programme is a regulatory initiative by which companies are required to consider their treatment of customer at all levels or processes of the product life-cycle. The Financial Conduct Authority in the UK thus expects senior management to be aware of the TCF programme and lays responsibility for treating customers fairly squarely at the door of senior management. This is recommended to the Ghana banking industry where Senior Management will take full responsibility for the failings of the bank that affects it service delivery and leads to misinformation.
The question that needs to be addressed is what role has the consumer of the banking products played in product and service delivery? To what extent are consumers involved in developing banking products and services? Consumers of banking products as market participants must have access and possess up to date and perfect information which enables them to select products and services that better match their needs. The system may be confronted with the problem of asymmetric information where bankers posses information that may not be available to customers. This places the banker in a position of trust in their relationship with the customer, especially the majority of customers who may not be well informed. This may lead to consumers being treated unfairly and possibly suffering considerable financial losses in the process.
Customers do not want products pushed at them. They want Banks to offer solutions to their real and relevant needs. The Litmus test of a bank product is whether or not it meets a client’s need.
- Customers expect Banks to open doors for them beyond their current Banks must provide a working bridge to the external world for their clients and bring the world to them. Where clients need to source funding, expertise and goods from other parts of the world their bank must play a part in making that happen. Clients also expect their bank to build a solid reputation that they can be proud to be associated with. They want their bank to have a reputation that exudes confidence, sound management and sustainability. It makes them feel their funds are safe with the bank. They do not want their bank to be cited for poor corporate Governance practice. Be there all the time 24/7 service, respond to their questions now! Be honest with them.
- If we do not understand the customer and work in relation with them, we cannot design products, services and safeguards that will address this changing face of banking in our world In this present day, some banks are still asking for spousal agreement to the use of a house owned by the said spouse as collateral for a loan. So in situations where spouses are not friends as seems to be the case sadly in a lot of situations, the house owner is stifled in their banking needs.
Walt Disney, Founder of Disney, identifies the importance of doing an exceptional job. “Whatever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it, they will want to come back and see you do it again, and they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do.”
To conclude, I wish to acknowledge the efforts of the banking’ world to keep their customers satisfied. We all know the room for improvement is still the biggest room and urge us all to do better, jumping unto the next sigmoid curve with innovative products and initiatives in order to manage customer expectations better.