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Middle East Banks – Churning and Burning

January 20, 2011

Ernst and Young have released the results of a survey of bank customers in the GCC. The study, Retail Banking in the GCC, claims that 25% of customers in the GCC plan to switch banks in 2011.

The Gulf Daily News runs the story in today’s edition as Clients set to switch banks. Here’s a telling excerpt:

“The survey points out that customer experience needs to be driven by the operational excellence of each transaction.

About 71% of respondents said trust is highly important to their relationship with their primary banks but 70% cited transaction speed and 66% tagged service quality.

While 45% consider personal attention to be highly important, 7% confirmed they get that from their banks.”

On the face of it, pretty damning statistics, particularly the one about only 7% of customers agreeing that they actually get personal service. In my experience, the issue is not so much about personal service or the lack of it. You can usually find a person to talk to. It’s what they do and how they do it that counts. I wrote a post for the Career Advantage website about my experience with my own bank a few months back. At the time, I was waiting for a new ATM card. The whole process was something of a saga, which I describe here.

I haven’t seen the EY report yet, but I will be interested to see how they have segmented the survey. Friends in banking tell me that one of the consequences of the 2008-2009 financial crisis is that many of the banks have taken a hard look at the kind of customers they really want. If the survey shows that the level of discontent applies to their most profitable customers – those transacting frequently with large sums of money and using multiple services – then the banks have cause to worry. But if the results include large numbers of small customers whose profiles suggest that they will never be serious sources of profit, then perhaps they don’t care if they lose them.

Any significant level of dissatisfaction is bad news, and the banks should care. But reality suggests that if they invest in customer service, granddads drawing their pensions once a month will be pretty far back in the queue.

One of the companies I’m involved in has come up with an interesting technique for assessing customer service. You might want to use a variant of it for yourself to run a sanity check on the service you’re getting from your bank.

The technique involves looking at five dimensions of customer service. These are Environment, Communications, Attitudes in Interaction, Process in Action, and finally, Dealing with Unusual Situations.

So next time you visit your bank, bring a little notepad with these headers listed out. Ideally, so that you can assess the last dimension, do the exercise when you have a problem that needs sorting out.

During your visit, focus on these questions related to each of the five dimensions:

1.       Environment: Did you find the branch a pleasant place to visit? Comfortable? Clean and tidy? Well guarded? Not too noisy? Clear signs telling you where to go for what service? Plenty of seats?

2.       Communications: Did you find it easy to get the information or service you were looking for? No language difficulties? Clear instructions? Body language of staff? Tone of voice?

3.       Attitudes in Interaction: How did the staff interact with you? Taking responsibility? Friendly? Professional?

4.       Process in Action: How did you feel about the processes the bank followed in providing you with the service? Easy to understand? Designed for the bank? Designed for you? Logical? Time efficient?

5.       Dealing with Unusual Situations: How effective was the bank in solving your problem or answering your query?  Did they react quickly enough? Did one person take ownership? Did you feel that they were concerned? Did they make promises that they kept?

When the visit’s over, score the first four categories out of ten, and the final one out of twenty. Problem resolution is perhaps the most important aspect of customer service, so you should give it twice the weight of the other scores. If you had a problem that could not be resolved on the spot, put a provisional score in for Dimension 5, and a final one when the problem is sorted out.

If you score your experience at less than 30 out of a possible maximum 60 points, then consider changing banks.

You could argue that most of the criteria are subjective. But your perception is more important to you than objective measures – it’s how you feel. The technique my company uses is more complex. But what you have here are the basic essentials. And you can use the same technique when you visit another bank to talk about switching your account!

In fact, you can use it in any situation where you are concerned about customer service – shops, phone companies, government offices and even restaurants.

So my message to the banks is: when you see people wandering around your branches with little notebooks, be on your best behaviour – it isn’t necessarily a robber planning a heist!

From → Business, Middle East

  1. Cannot guilt individuals for wanting to blame somebody for the turmoil.

    • True, and I wonder what the bonuses will be like for the ME banks this year. I’m pretty confident that the senior execs will not be incentivised for customer satisfaction!

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