Cus­tomer re­la­tions in­grained in our cul­ture

Finweek English Edition - - The orange index - COPY: Nan Eyles AD­VER­TIS­ING: Tracy Par­sons

OLD MU­TUAL BANK has been rated sec­ond over­all in this year’s Ask Afrika Orange In­dex, up from 5th po­si­tion two years ago and this de­spite the bank­ing sec­tor as a whole hav­ing dropped from 2nd po­si­tion to fifth po­si­tion in the latest In­dex.

Japie van Niek­erk, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Old Mu­tual Bank, be­lieves the Com­pe­ti­tion Com­mis­sion’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into bank­ing and head­lines about bank charges al­most cer­tainly con­trib­uted to bank­ing fall­ing from sec­ond to fifth spot, while re­tail’s rise to the top spot may be due to the con­sumer spend­ing spree dur­ing 2005. Cloth­ing re­tail out­lets pro­vid­ing ready credit may have con­trib­uted to cus­tomer de­light.

Hav­ing said that, Van Niek­erk is very pleased with the over­all re­sult be­cause it in­di­cates that Old Mu­tual Bank’s cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion is on par with the best in the coun­try. “In fact, with­out be­ing im­mod­est, we’re not very sur­prised to rate top in the bank­ing sec­tor as we com­mis­sion an­nual re­search to rate cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion and de­light against our com­peti­tors’. The Orange In­dex con­firms what this in­de­pen­dent re­search has shown for the past three years.”

Cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion has al­ways been an Old Mu­tual Bank hall­mark, says Van Niek­erk. He also firmly be­lieves in the dis­tinc­tion be­tween cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion and de­light. “That’s why we don’t sim­ply fo­cus on the ef­fi­ciency of our ser­vice but also the man­ner in which it’s de­liv­ered. We try to cre­ate a friendly, re­lax­ing en­vi­ron­ment in our branches. Of­ten this means pay­ing at­ten­tion to the smaller things. For ex­am­ple, ev­ery branch is equipped with a proper cof­fee ma­chine for cus­tomers. Our branch staff mem­bers are par­tic­u­larly good at es­tab­lish­ing and main­tain­ing re­la­tion­ships with cus­tomers. It’s some­thing that’s be­come in­grained in the cul­ture of the bank.”

Cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion mea­sures the tan­gi­ble as­pects of ser­vice, such as whether the ATMs are work­ing or whether there’re enough staff mem­bers avail­able to as­sist cus­tomers, ex­plains Van Niek­erk. De­light is an at­ti­tu­di­nal mea­sure. It goes be­yond rat­ing the ef­fi­ciency of ser­vice de­liv­ery, but also the way in which it’s pro­vided and whether the over­all ex­pe­ri­ence is mean­ing­ful and mem­o­rable.

Re­search com­mis­sioned by Old Mu­tual Bank last year put cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion at 90%. “While there may be some room for im­prove­ment, it’s lim­ited,” he says. “What we do is com­pare ser­vice rat­ings year on year. This gives us a good idea of whether we are slip­ping in any im­por­tant ar­eas and we can then ad­dress th­ese be­fore they be­come prob­lem ar­eas. In short, we look to main­tain our level of cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion and are pro-ac­tive about do­ing so.”

South African con­sumers have def­i­nitely started to ex­pect more, Van Niek­erk be­lieves. In­creased com­pe­ti­tion from in­ter­na­tional play­ers en­ter­ing the coun­try, a mar­ket that’s get­ting more so­phis­ti­cated on the back of a grow­ing econ­omy, a vo­cif­er­ous me­dia and the abil­ity to eas­ily make di­rect com­par­isons on­line from their of­fice or the com­fort of their home are some of the fac­tors that are con­tribut­ing.

Ser­vice in the sec­tor, he be­lieves, is gen­er­ally rea­son­ably good, as re­flected by the sur­vey where it rates in the top five sec­tors two years in a row. “We’d prob­a­bly rate pretty well against the bank­ing sec­tor in most first world coun­tries,” he says. “The deal forged be­tween some ma­jor in­ter­na­tional banks and South African banks would seem to bear this out.”

South African con­sumers have def­i­nitely started to ex­pect more. Japie van Niek­erk

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