Earlier this month, I spent a lovely week with my wife at a destination spa resort in north India. What we cherished the most is not the beautiful vistas of the Himalayan foothills, nor the rejuvenating spa treatments or the delectable cuisine. It was the outstanding service attitude of each and every one of the resort’s staff, be it the therapist, the waiter or the gardener.
The best customer service is invisible, at least to the customer. For banks, despite the blaze and brilliance of technology, putting the customer first still remains the fulcrum around which everything else revolves. After all, banking is a financial services industry with the emphasis continuing firmly to remain on service, and the single most important reason for customers deciding to switch their bank continues to be service — or the lack of it.
For banks to provide superior service today, the overall user experience needs to match the increased convenience of navigating their daily banking life with the comfort of the human touch that one finds in, say, the hospitality industry, where the hotel staff intuitively discern a customer’s need before they voice them.
Do we really KYC?
Service-based differentiation starts with what banks have always done as a regulatory exercise — with KYC, which stands for Know Your Customer.
For a hospitality major known for its impeccable customer insights and loyalty, good service may mean ensuring that there is an extra pillow placed on the bed for the guest who they know prefers it that way. For a bank, it might translate into such things as knowing your preferred language when calling the call centre, your favourite coffee shop to offer you discounts on, or the next product you are looking to sign up for based on your personal situation: if you just have started your first job, you most probably need a credit card and not a home loan.
In today’s connected world, knowing the customer intimately has become relatively easier. Big-data based analytics help banks to understand customer preferences better, and even gauge customer sentiments about the bank by looking at a variety of variables including recent interactions, social media comments, transaction patterns and product usage, among others.
Proactive versus reactive
Technology today enables banks to know when a customer is facing a problem, often even before the customer realises that he has one. When a customer is having difficulty with logging on to online banking as he has forgotten his password or his overseas remittance is delayed due to a technical failure at the receiving bank, proactively contacting the customer to help or inform makes for moments of wow. In a digitally connected world, why does the customer have to call the bank to report a problem? At Emirates NBD, we started piloting proactive service last year, and have delighted hundreds of thousands of our customers by reaching out proactively to them when we realised that they needed assistance with a transaction or a service.
Active social media listening and engagement is also helping banks to connect with customers at the moment of truth. Mapping out and optimising customer service journeys, ironing out potential pain points and simplifying processes are critical steps in smoothening the service experience. The watchwords are ease, simplicity and empathy.
Building a service culture
We do our best work when we remember that we are in the business of service. First, we have to embed service excellence as a key organisational value. This implies treating customers with respect, fairness and transparency. Secondly, we have to walk the talk by incentivising staff for superior service delivery and punishing employees who are sloppy, indifferent or unethical to customers. And finally, we have to empower staff with the right tools, be it Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, user-friendly branches or decision-making powers on pricing.
Recent research suggests that a 10 per cent improvement in customer satisfaction actually drives a 2 per cent growth in banks’ bottom lines, making customer service more than a nice-to-do.
Mastering customer service in the age of technology is largely a matter of not putting the ‘technology’ cart before the ‘service’ horse. Modern technology won’t move the needle of customer happiness unless the driving force is customer centricity. The answer is to innovate with our heart, so that our customers smile all the way to the bank.
Suvo Sarkar is the senior executive vice-president & group head of Retail Banking & Wealth Management at Emirates NBD.
Source: Gulf News
Expotrade Middle East FZ-LLC
1002, Al Thuraya Tower 2, Dubai Media City
PO Box 500686 Dubai, U.A.E.
Tel: +9714-4542135 Fax: +9714-4542136