Targeted customers must be front and center of organizational strategy for long-term fulfillment, and for the banking industry this has become particularly crucial in the context of the Covid-19 adaptation process. More specifically, it is about putting targeted customers first to ensure their satisfaction by designing and offering customer-focused service options.
This configuration based on customer loyalty pays off enormously in strengthening an entity. Being customer focused means establishing and demonstrating what customers want and need, and it is well recognized that “happy customers” are the primary contributor to sustainability and growth. A culture-driven and customer-focused approach with sufficient dynamism is truly significant in gaining customer trust and building long-term relationships in banks and financial institutions.
Adopting a customer-centric approach is a governance issue and must be guided by customer-centric leadership. To get the most out of a holistic, customer-focused approach, it must be aligned with the organizational vision and strategic goals. This is a business approach. The development of the approach should be embraced by the board and senior management, and should be supported by all levels of operations and service delivery. A bank’s management network comprising the board of directors and senior management must understand the customer-centric approach and be convinced of its visible long-term benefits. An effective workforce must be actively engaged in this process and there should be incentives and an incentive framework to inspire employees to devote adequate effort to customer satisfaction within the given regulatory framework. A customer-focused approach could be a great force for rebound and growth for banks in this unprecedented crisis environment as part of the enterprise risk management and business continuity approach.
Banks are required to assign clearly defined responsibilities as part of the customer service strategy. Working on operational efficiency and improving employee morale is key to engaging the workforce in this approach. It’s about creating a group of confident management employees who clearly understand how their behaviors drive customer satisfaction and loyalty. Loyal customers can easily be reached and attracted with less effort and cost. Targeted customers should feel valued by institutional efforts. Target customers who do not feel valued are less likely to remain loyal to suppliers of goods or services. Thus, the approach has implications in terms of costs and financial results. Specifically, the customer-focused approach offers opportunities to reduce costs to maximize a bank’s benefits and revenues if applied effectively. Loyal customers are also the true promoters of a business and are the most powerful force behind a reputation for service excellence.
Banks must work on product differentiation to create monopoly power over their customers. Technology plays a big role in making a financial product different and special for customers. There is plenty of evidence that customers are happier when using sophisticated technology. However, in several cases, demand-side barriers, such as lack of customer awareness, have been a major impediment, especially in developing countries. Covid-19 brought remarkable changes to these relationships, and now customers seemed comfortable reacting quickly to technology-driven products offered by banks and financial institutions.
Satisfying customers has become more difficult in the new normal. Customers now have a much higher desire for personalized services from banks and financial institutions to meet their bespoke needs. During the first phase of confinement, bank customers were worried and skeptical about their lives, resources and savings; and customers expected some form of communication from their banks. Some banks have done this responsibly and have benefited in terms of maintaining customer confidence. Today, in the phase of business transformation and process re-engineering of banks/financial institutions, “hyper personalization” is probably the appropriate term to reflect the growing scope of expectations and demand for services. In the new normal days, clients should be offered differential deposit options with adjustable minimum documentation/paperwork with their available excess funds. Flexible loan products with alternative repayment options and instant services should be offered to attract the right borrowers. Overall, customers need a much bigger basket of products and wider options to choose from. It is technology-driven product design that can meet these changing needs and flexible options.
“Easily accessible information on banking services” is another crucial issue that banks and financial institutions must deal with with great care. Easily understandable and useful information should be made available through physical and virtual channels targeting a specific group of customers. Conscious customers expect adequate facts and figures to make informed decisions. Although the lack of financial literacy has been a major challenge in the financial sector of most developing countries, the challenges and coping mechanisms of Covid-19 have created an enabling environment for improving financial literacy.
Collecting feedback should be high on the priority list of a customer-centric approach, and both positive and negative feedback and responses should be analyzed very carefully. Particularly negative feedback should be handled very judiciously. Effective arrangements for receiving complaints and prompt responses must be part of the client-centred approach. It is essential to make employees understand that they should be grateful and respond positively to negative feedback from customers. There should be continuous efforts for upgrading and rectification in order to properly respond to customers.
Unfortunately, income disparity has increased in response to the devastation of Covid-19 which may worsen further in the period ahead. We can expect a period of relatively higher inflation and new pressures on low-income people. In such a circumstance, responsible and ethical banking practices should give impetus to the improvement of services to the venerable strata of society. Ultimately, it’s not just about scaling quickly with larger customers, it’s also about helping small and micro customers scale together.
The banking and finance industry is still transforming and changing. Dynamic governance has no alternative. Technology has already been recognized as probably the most crucial vehicle for embracing the required transformation. The mobile phone is already an integral part of our lives and has become an important mode for enjoying financial services. Artificial intelligence is expected to dominate our future financial transactions. In the process of realizing our future transformation and our customer-focused approach, leveraging modern technologies and associated equipment will take us to the desired level of sustainable operation.
The author is a professor at the Bangladesh Institute of Bank Management ([email protected])