This week, I am starting a series that reflects many bankers’ headaches: Losing customers. It is important to reflect on what a bank is doing or not doing right. Sometimes more than half of some banks’ account holding can be classified as inactive or dormant. Despite the beautiful edifices, the charming smiles of front desk staff, customers continue to leave in droves. Why should a customer leave one bank to another and exit within three to six months? What do customers really want?
Customer Retention Strategies Galore
Let us look at some customer enticement and retention strategies commonly undertaken by banks:
“Re-launch! Introduction of new products! Customer Service Week! Customer Delights! Souvenirs! Dormant Account Re-activation Strategies! Customer Appreciation Days! Customer Re-engagement Strategies! Digital Birthday Wishes, Birthday cakes! Customer Collaboration Programs! Increased Customer Visits! Lunch or Dinner with Customers! End of Year Giveaways! End of Year Cocktails and Dinners! Week-end for Two at a Five Star Hotel! Training for SMEs! Customer Surveys and Feedback! Focused Group Discussions! Awards Nights! No Charges or Fees!”
The Mouth Watering Jackpot!
The most glamorous of these enticement schemes or the icing on the cake: Raffle Extravaganza! Put GHC300 into your account and you stand a chance of winning a Brand new car! Open an account and keep a minimum of with GHs….. for 90 days and get the chance of winning a house or some big money!!
Spoiling Customers for choice
Dear reader, the list of customer enticement packages listed above can be expanded further. Customers are being spoilt for choice. It is all a matter of recognizing the fact that the customer is the most important person on the bank premises. If they decide to quit, there is no bank. The account holder is the gold that the gold mine was set up to look for. Without finding any gold, the exercise becomes a wasteful enterprise.
The paradigm shift in banking in the past decade is about a buyer’s market, with the service providers ‘on their knees’, in the market space combing the various sources of funds for a relationship.
The Big Task for Bankers
These tasks undertaken by bankers for customer acquisition and retention can be very expensive and cost a fortune. On the raffles, banks need to get approval from the National Lotteries Authority since they have the characteristics of gaming or lottery. One is sometimes tempted to ask: Is it really worth it? There is an Akan saying that states that “Agoro be so a ne efiri anopa”, meaning that for a game to be interesting, it has to start from the beginning, or you must get it right from the beginning. That is the reason why services and products must be well thought-through before execution or implementation.
A bank does not need all these expensive mouth –watering schemes, just for customers to enjoy them and still desert the bank. Stable sustainable schemes go a long way and not the “Flash in a Pan” ones.
Some Public Perceptions about Banking
We still find a sizeable number of persons who think a bank means just getting the license to take deposits and grant loans, and make good margins. They equate the success of a bank with the size and beauty of its buildings, the size of its company fleet and type of cars driven by the staff!
Attributes of a Professional Banker – What customers want to see
After entering a good looking edifice like a bank, there are some attributes or expectations that customers want exhibited by all bankers, whatever department they operate from and whatever grade they are on.
- Knowledge: Ignorant front desk personnel with little knowledge of the core business, the products, and knowledge to solve problems cause customers to leave. A front desk person has to check from supervisors when an issue is not easily understood but should everything be back and forth? Someone once exclaimed to me “You might as well put answering machines at the front”. After the beautiful and handsome looks, customers want solutions to their problems or answers to their enquiries.
- Honesty: The stock in trade of bankers is money. Keeping customers money either for safe-keeping, for investment or granting loans is a sensitive issue, and therefore make the attribute of honesty a non-debatable one. Are you suppressing your customers funds by not crediting the account same day upon receipt of funds? Are you booking the correct investments for the customer, and is it done timely?
- Patience and Tolerance: Do you find yourself not tolerating some customers because their culture and lifestyles look different from yours. Do you look down on illiterates customers? And yet you accept their money (whether it is torn or smelly?). Customers who don’t feel welcome will just stop patronizing your service whether your offices are beautiful or not. Do you find yourself indiscreetly spraying air freshener in the banking hall anytime a particular person enters the hall? Tact and diplomacy are of essence here.
- Professional Dressing: A well cultured and professionally groomed staff is a site for sore eyes. When staff look unkempt, customers feel suspicious and are not keen to hand over their funds to such persons. How are your mobile bankers dressed or look?
- Empathetic and Responsive: How fast do you attend to your customers’ requests? Do you put yourself in the shoes of the customers when they are faced with problems? What happens during system failures?
- Good Communication skills: How well do you listen to your customers when they talk to you? Is your mind on the customer’s concern or is another staff distracting your attention without an excuse from the customer? Do you speak so loudly that customers nearby can hear your conversation with your customer? Do you exhibit an open stance when talking to your customers or you cross your shoulders, stand aloof, cross your legs and frown when speaking to them? Do you look them in the eye while serving them or just say…”next” without even a look or acknowledgement? It is the quiet ones that simply walk away without complaining.
Some Branch Banking Experiences that make Customers Leave
Dear branch manager, do you know why your banking hall is getting emptier by the month?
- Digital banking: Yes this is a genuine reason. Many customers are using e-banking – ATMs, internet banking, mobile money transactions, and less usage of cash.
- Undelivered Promises: How long should a cheque book request take before delivery? This is a typical customer service issue. If there are issues with the printer, please let your customers know and advise them on best means of withdrawing money. It should not take two to six weeks. Customers stop banking the cash and send it elsewhere for easy transactions. Please check your stock of undelivered cheque books in stock. Many of them are disappointed customers who have lost interest in calling to follow up.
- Wrongful Dishonour of Cheques: some customers’ transactions are found all over the network of branches. For example, cheque lodgements in branch A, cash lodgements in branch B, bulk cash lodgement in branch C and transfers through Head office. How well do relationship managers know their customers business to track down these transactions without rushing to return cheques? The implication of wrongful return of customers’ cheques end up in the law courts, followed by reputational damage!
- Customers not Notified of Cheques returned from clearing: This is another common reason for customer attrition. Customer lodges a cheque of GHc10,000 into the account, to be sent to the owner of the cheque’s bank for clearing and maturity in two days. The cheque is not honoured by the other bank, thus reducing the customer’s balance. Customer is not informed and assumes the GHc10,000 has matured in the account. Customer issues a cheque of GHc7,000 against that GHc10,000. The bank dishonours the cheque without customer’s knowledge! Palaver! Customer storms the branch files a complaint and blasts the manager. At worst, they leave quietly.
- Payment of cheques which should have been stopped when customer gave notice: This is another candidate for the law courts. Most of the time, the reason is ignorance. Do the manuals of operations state the importance of timing when it comes to stopped cheques? Customer has good reasons for stopping it. Firstly, ensure the time of receipt of the stop notice is logged. Check from the system if that particular cheque has not been honoured already. Quickly effect the transaction. This is an order from customer and the stop transaction should be effected before sending it to the manager. After all, you are protecting your customer’s funds from leaving the account. That is the duty of care implied in the banker customer relationship! When a stopped cheque is not effected, it becomes a tug of war between the customer and the bank, sometimes including the payee. For all you know, the cheque might be proceeds from an armed robbery!
I will pause here. Please discuss these little tit bits among yourselves. Customers leave their banks because of these supposedly “little things” which matter in the long run. Please stay tuned.
TO BE CONTINUED
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alberta Quarcoopome is a Fellow of the Institute of Bankers, and CEO of ALKAN Business Consult Ltd. She is the Author of two books: “The 21st Century Bank Teller: A Strategic Partner” and “My Front Desk Experience: A Young Banker’s Story”. She uses her experience and practical case studies, training young bankers in operational risk management, sales, customer service, banking operations and fraud.