Targeted clients should be at the forefront and at the center of the organizational strategy for long-term accomplishment, and for banking industry, it has become particularly crucial in the context of the Covid-19 coping process. More specifically, it is about putting the targeted customers at the forefront to ensure their satisfaction by designing and offering client-dedicated service options.
This customer loyalty-based setup immensely pays back to strengthening an entity. Being client-dedicated means establishing and demonstrating what the clients want and need, and it is well recognized that 'satisfied clients' are the key contributor to sustainability and growth. A culture driven client-dedicated approach with sufficient dynamism is truly meaningful to win customers' trust and found long-term relationships in banks and financial institutions.
Embracing a client-dedicated approach is a governance issue and it should be driven by customer-centric leadership. For drawing optimum benefits out of a comprehensive client dedicated approach, it should be aligned with the organizational vision and strategic goals. This is an enterprise approach. The crafting of the approach should be well adopted by the governing board and top management, and must be supported by all levels of operations and service deliveries. Top leadership network of a bank comprising the governing board and top management must have an understanding of the customer-focused approach and be convinced of its long-term visible benefits. Efficient workforce must be actively engaged in this process and there should be motivations and incentive framework for inspiring employees to assign adequate efforts to the satisfaction of clients within given regulatory framework. Client-dedicated approach might be a great force for rebound and rise for banks in this unprecedented crisis environment being part of enterprise risk management and business continuity approach.
Banks are required to assign clearly defined responsibility and accountability as part of customer dedicated service strategy. It is essential to work on operational efficiencies and improvement of the morale of the employees to engage workforce with this approach. It is about creating a group of confident management employees who clearly understand how their behaviors bring customer satisfaction and loyalty. Loyal customers can easily be reached and attracted with less efforts and costs. The targeted customers must feel valued by the institutional efforts. The target clients who do not feel valued are less likely to remain loyal to goods or service providers. Thus the approach has cost implications and financial outcomes. More specifically, customer-dedicated approach offers opportunities to save costs to maximize benefits and income of a bank if enforced efficiently. Loyal customers are also the true promoters for a business and are the most powerful force behind the reputation for service excellence.
Banks need to work on product differentiation for creating monopoly power over its customers. Technology plays a great role to make a financial product different and special to the customers. There are ample evidences that customers are having greater satisfaction when offered using sophisticated technology. However, in several instances demand-side barriers like lack of customer awareness have been critical obstacle especially in the developing countries. Covid-19 has brought remarkable changes in this connections, and now customers appeared to be comfortable to respond quickly to the technology driven products offered by banks and financial institutions.
Satisfying customers has become more challenging in the new normal. Clients now have a much higher desire for personalized services from banks and financial institutions to meet their tailored needs. During the first phase of lockdown, there was fear and skepticism amongst the bank clients on their lives, resources and savings; and clients were expecting some form of communication on the part of their banks. Some banks did it responsibly and were benefitted in terms of upholding the confidence of clients. Now in the phase of business transformation and reengineering process of banks/financial institutions, 'hyper personalization' is probably the appropriate term to reflect the growing extent of service expectations and demand. In new normal days, clients need to be offered differential deposit options with minimum documentation/formalities adjustable with their available surplus funds. Flexible loan products with alternative repayment options and instant services have to be offered to attract good borrowers. As a whole, clients require a much bigger product basket and wider options to choose from. It is the technology-driven designing of products that can serve these changing needs and flexible options.
'Easily accessible information on banking services' is another crucial issue to address with utmost care by the banks and financial institutions. Easily understandable and useful information needs to be made available through both physical and virtual channels targeting specific group of clients. Aware customers expect adequate facts and figures to make informed decisions. Though lack of financial literacy has been a critical challenge in the financial sector of most developing countries, Covid-19 challenges and coping mechanisms created favourable environment for improved financial literacy.
Drawing feedback should be on the priority list of a client-dedicated approach, and both positive and negative comments and responses must be analyzed very carefully. Especially negative comments must be handled very judiciously. Efficient arrangements for receiving complaints and quick responses must be part of the client-dedicated approach. It is essential to make employees understand to be appreciative and respond positively to the negative reactions from clients. There should be continuous efforts for upgradation and rectification to respond to clients rightly.
Unfortunately, income disparity has gone up in response to the Covid-19 devastation which may turn even worse in the upcoming period. We may expect a period of relatively higher inflation and further pressure on low income people. In such a circumstance, responsible and ethical banking practices must get impetus for improvement in services to venerable sections of the society. Ultimately, it is not only about moving fast with bigger clients, it is also about supporting small and micro clients to move together.
Banking and financial industry is still passing through transformation and changes. Dynamic governance has no alternative. Technology has already been recognized as probably the most crucial vehicle to adopt required transformation. Mobile phone is already an integral part of our lives and has become an important mode for availing of financial services. Artificial intelligence is expected to dominate our future financial transactions. In the process of realizing our future transformation and customer-dedicated approach, taking advantage of modern technologies and the associated equipment will lead us to the desired level of sustainable operation.
The author is a professor at the Bangladesh Institute of Bank Management (firstname.lastname@example.org)