Customer service at banks in Egypt is notorious for its long queues, systems that are “down” and a staff that oftentimes fails to apply the mantra: the customer is always right.
According to Bassel El-Hini, managing director of credit and retail banking at Banque Du Caire, the success of the sector will depend on banks paying attention to what customers expect rather than just what they need, focusing on improving customer relations rather than just profits.
“Egypt does not differ from any other part of the world in terms of customer expectations and there have not been enough studies to measure the effect of these expectations on the success of banks,” he said at the Lafferty Retail Banking conference.
Customer expectations for the banking sector are dynamic, changing rapidly and banks must embrace this change, he said.
Lafferty Group provides research and advisory services to senior management in the financial services industry
“In terms of data analysis and research I don’t think anyone can compete with Lafferty but I am here to talk … about common sense, perceptions and understanding of the changing customer expectations when they enter our banks and how this affects us,” he told the conference.
“Expectations are not only confined to the same industry. Other sectors are treating customers better and this affects us,” he added. If customers are treated better at grocery stores or are offered better service by mobile operators, expectations are raised for the banking sector.
“We have to pay attention to what customers want even if their wants are out of the ordinary. In some sectors customers are treated like royalty the maybe we should consider doing so,” he added, pointing to loyalty and word-of-mouth.
“Loyalty is not the same as it was,” he said, explaining that banks should not count too much on loyalty because the times when people used to honor long-term relationships with their banks are over. Statements like “I am staying with this bank because I’ve been with this bank for 10 years” are unheard of today, said El-Hini.
“Loyalty is now on the low and competition is so fierce that it is very easy for the customer to find a company [offering] the same products with better service,” he added.
“We have to treat customers as human beings and not as a machine, we can’t afford to lose customers,” and any small mishap should be avoided what with word-of-mouth traveling so fast and being so effective. He cited recent social phenomena recently embraced by Egypt such as Facebook, Twitter, messaging and bbming, which according to him, have caused word of mouth to be crucial in maintain successful relationships with customers.
“If we are always focused on bottom lines and profits, I assure you that word-of-mouth will hurt us where it most counts,” he said. “I’m not arguing that any institutions should not focus on meeting the customer’s needs; I’m a saying that this is not enough. The customer can still walk away even though there needs are met, but their expectations are not.”
From the management perspectives, El-Hini said banks must consider its employees’ expectations as well. The same logic applies: even if their financial needs are met, they may have higher expectations from their management in terms of recognition or support when they are dealing with the customer or even coming up with new ideas.
“Like our customers, the competitive environment makes employee loyalty not as important as it was before, and not meeting their expectations my cause them to look for an alternative.”