Banks come full circle and recognise the importance of customer experience

There appears to be growing recognition by retail banks that to compete in the new world of work they need to focus not only on processes and efficiencies but more importantly on customer experience and service, so says the Financial Times in an interesting article where it announced that UK banks are bucking the retrenchment trend and actually hiring large numbers on new staff. Santander it is believed could hire up to 6000 new staff over the next two years, 600 of which will be hired in the coming months and will be focused around improving customer experience and service.

What is really interesting about this article is that the new hires are predominantly for frontline customer service and branch staff. It would seem that banking has come around full circle. Back in the early 2000’s when I was working for a leading retail bank, the whole banking industry strategy focused on branch closures and moving customers onto more cost effective online channels – the strategy was often called from Bricks to Clicks. This strategy was always flawed. Banking is about money, people’s money, customer’s money, and people’s finances will always be highly emotional. The human factor in banking, especially retail banking is a hugely important part of the equation. Banks that recognise this and invest in the customer experience will be the winners of the future.

Banks need to be delivering the we call the three universal benefits of friendship to their customers. These benefits include:
– Sharing dreams and aspirations
– Being supportive (through good and bad times)
– Encouraging and introducing other connections

You can read more about this strategy to build stronger customer experiences and relationships in my white paper Bacon Baps Build Buddies

Dean van Leeuwen is a partner of TomorrowToday International, a dynamic organisation that is assisting both large and small companies navigate the rich streams of the new economy. He is recognised as a creative and strategic thinker with an ability to influence individuals and teams to explore ‘outside the box’ options. TomorrowToday have several entertaining and enlightening multimedia presentations that explore themes relevant to customer loyalty, talent, diversity and leadership in tomorrow’s world of work.

Santander could hire 6,000 new staff
By Gill Plimmer and Patrick Jenkins in London
Published: September 5 2010 20:15 | Last updated: September 5 2010 20:15

Santander, the Spanish banking group, is set to launch a recruitment drive that could see it hire 6,000 people as it presses ahead with UK expansion.

The bank, which has come under fire for poor customer service, plans to hire 600 people over the coming months to improve performance.

But those familiar with recruitment plans say it is in the market for up to 6,000 over the next year or two.

That would be in addition to 5,000 frontline employees it is inheriting from Royal Bank of Scotland as part of last month’s acquisition of 318 branches. Santander, which would not confirm the expansion plan, currently has a staff of 22,000.

The recruitment drive comes as other retail banks also step up hiring of frontline employees. Metro Bank, the start-up that opened a second London branch last week, is to hire 60 more people over the next two months.

Even the part-nationalised banks RBS and Lloyds are selectively hiring in retail banking, in stark contrast to the cuts in other areas of their operations. Last week RBS announced a further 3,500 back-office job cuts.

The build-up in retail bank front offices may surprise many observers, given continuing economic uncertainty.

Simon Maughan, an analyst at MF Global, said the move was pragmatic. “Banks?.?.?.?realise they need to improve customer service if they are going to make the most of their existing business.”

The hiring comes amid a further recovery in the financial services sector jobs market. Recruitment remains buoyant in the City, one of the few bright spots in the UK labour market as banks that slashed thousands of employees at the height of the credit crunch have tried to rebuild teams.

Albert Ellis, chief executive of City headhunter Harvey Nash, said that even as banks make cuts, they must recruit people with different skills to take advantage of growth markets.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010.

2 thoughts on “Banks come full circle and recognise the importance of customer experience”

  1. Working for a large, South African Retail Bank, I can confirm that the customer focus is shifting. Making this shift however, while still keeping costs down, is proving to be quite a challenge. Another challenge is to provide a customer service that satisfies your full customer base – from baby boomer to generation Y, from the unschooled day labourer to the business professional. The positive however is that paradigms are starting to change and more creativity and innovation are being applied in conjunction with new technologies to support these ideas. Exciting (yet demanding) times!

  2. Willie

    Excellent comment and thank you, I agree with what you are saying. Between 1999-2003 I worked on large customer experience projects for Nedbank, so I have a good idea of the challenges you face and it’s good to hear how things have moved on. Working in the UK we’ve developed a framework that helps companies improve customer experiences and reduce costs at the same time. Our experience is that companies do not have to always “delight” customers, they can even inconvenience them without any detrimental impact to bottom line results. This requires a paradigm shift in how companies view and deliver customer experiences but the opportunities are huge.

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