Customer relations ingrained in our culture
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