Bank Customers: Insight into the dynamics of satisfaction by Obodo Ejiro Lucky

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ObodoEjiroLuckyTwo factors are shaping how banks treat their customers: the reality of competition, and the overwhelming amount of information at the disposal of the customers.

More than before, banks are aware that ignoring customers’ changing needs and lifestyle, can spell peril. Since, based on the two factors already mentioned, customers freely navigate to banks that meet their needs.

The strategy of engaging customers through multiple channels, including social media, is therefore a reflection of the desire of banks to continuously keep track with their customers.

Indeed, customer satisfaction has taken center stage in bank product design, media campaigns, conflict resolution, etc. Coupled with prudent financial management on the part of banks, the customer-centric strategy is defining leadership among the new generation banks. And older banks have seen the need to catching up too.

Our research on competition and preferences in the industry shows that the way banks tailour its products, branch/ATM locations and hours, online banking, and its complaint resolution strategy matter a great deal.

In two surveys we conducted late last year, respondents (especially those outside Lagos) pointed at increase in the number of ATMs as relevant to helping them access funds more easily. They asked for bank consideration of loans to a broader spectrum of credible classes in society, especially SMEs and called for more respect for customers, no matter how rich or poor.

The surveys throw up a number of complains, suggestions and preferences which seem basic, but are worth considering.

Some respondents called for increased security of online transactions, and the simplification of banking processes to enable less educate Nigerians get a shot at financial inclusion (Microfinance banks have done a lot to address the later suggestion.).

In summary, we found that, customers are interested in more efficient channels that help them access and do business with their deposits, get loans from banks and repay with minimum stress.

But the key takeaway from our enquiries was that, each class in society has its own peculiarities, expectations and needs. Winning across classes will therefore be determined by how well banks understand the needs of the various classes and meet them (And this may be impossible if detailed focus group discussions and researches are not used to gather information).

Amazingly, Ernst and Young’s global survey on retail banking came out with similar observations. “By focusing on the type of customer rather than the number of customers, banks can build a reputation for excellent customer service,” concludes the consulting firm.

For a country like Nigeria with 56.3 million people who have never been banked and 3 million who were once banked, but left, the challenges are enormous. Lack of proper understanding of bank procedures and illiteracy still affect a considerable portion of the population, therefore, to optimize investment in customer experience, banks should deploy segment-based strategies that address different classes.

For now, we know that most Nigerians have an average of two accounts (in different banks) and have very high probabilities of switching allegiances should their primary banks falter.

We also know that their major dislikes include long queues in the banking hall, delay in clearing cheques, ATMs not working, prohibitive charges, unfriendly bank staff, etc.

Most of these issues (which are within the control of banks) can be resolved easily. In the case of “prohibitive charges,” bank representatives can deliberately guide customers through product documents to ensure that they understand every detail of the contract they are entering into. But where technology, which is not within the control of the banks, is to blame, the customer must be made to understand the problem.

 

Are preferences different in other climes?

The desire for efficient personalized services is ubiquitous across climes. While banks in the developed world seem to have understood and integrated personalized services into their operations decades ago, those in developing nations are catching up.

For sure, the developed world is ahead because of the amount of technology at its disposal and the efficiency of that technology. For example, it is possible to take photographs of both sides of a cheque you were given using your phone, send to your bank electronically, and have them pay into your account without even going to the bank! But this service is not available in Nigeria yet.

In the future, better technology, the extent to which banks make it easy for customers to do business faster and at low charges, will determine the competition.

Banks should continually quarry “how customers perceive them.” “What services customers expect from them” and “how well customers perceive that banks deliver on promises.” Banks that deliberately answer these questions accurately will definitely lead the pack.

 

 

Jiro-nomics is a compilation of articles which describe the Nigerian economic experience. The blog is a collection of articles written by Obodo Ejiro or culled from authoritative sources. It provides information on small business, consumer behavior, market research, banking retail etc. The author is a journalist with Nigeria’s premier business newspaper, BusinessDay. He lives in Lagos.