Bank is one of the most sensitive businesses in the world, the core value of which is the trust of customers. People repose trust in terms of money. Therefore, it is imperative that banks formulate a strategy that makes customers complacent about investing their money. A well-thought integrated marketing communication plan should be put in place by a bank to knock every aspect of strong brand building and gain customers' share of mind. Not only in terms of financial value of money but also in terms of the psychological relief of mind, people always try to choose a bank which is seemingly trustworthy enough, or has proven track record to rest their trust on.
Service quality is crucially important for a bank. A satisfied customer is like a living billboard of the bank that is going places and spreading fragrance of the bank's brand image through words of mouth (WoM). Likewise an unsatisfied customer does the opposite. Like in a restaurant a customer regards most the food and its taste; in a bank, the customers' ultimate requirement is the financial services that best fit their needs, not WoM, nor any sort of motivation through branding and communication messages. Branding and communications bring a customer in but service quality retains him making a loyal and satisfied brand ambassador. When you consider these facts into your brand and communications plan, it becomes flawless and brings success for the Bank.
Bangladesh Bank always insists on customer centric banking services by the banks. But it is also necessary that it defines the ways the banks could take initiatives. Moreover, it should make a detailed survey on the mass customers' needs and wants from the banks' services so as to find out how much customer centric the banks are acting and what not, and what could have been done. Just talking about inclusive banking off and on, Bangladesh Bank does not finish its responsibilities toward the people; rather it must also formulate some effective measures that may motivate the banks to take initiatives for financial inclusion of the mass segments of customers, i.e. people. To the least it can declare an award for most account opening banks, least complaint receiving bank(s), etc in the private commercial banking
Banks in Bangladesh, especially the private commercial ones, just cannot be imposed the mass account opening without ensuring some perks out of it. They are already in cut throat competition to enhance their customer base round the year and maximise their profits. They are using various integrated marketing tools for grabbing the mindshare of the mass customer segments. They are using state of the art modern technology to render best possible services to the customers spending a lot of money; in exchange they are getting customers paying them account maintenance and value added charges. So they cannot afford allowing mass people open accounts at Tk 10/- or so in the name of financial inclusion. And to be frank those accounts never work for long.
With some intensive working experience on campaign planning and activation in a leading commercial bank, I got the opportunity to directly interact with the mass segments of customers of retail banking across the country. Those interactions have brought out some exclusive insights of the small scale customers of the banking industry of the country.
Customer's insight about choosing a bank depends on a number of things--- age, sex, social status, geographical location, economic condition, etc. Again, in course of time, insights of customers change and vary. However, it's important that we know what the customers' thoughts are that drive them to choose their banking partner.
The insights are quite real-time feelings of non-institutional and small scale depositors and borrowers, and if nurtured properly by the banks, can turn into the basic ingredients for the marketing communications of Retail Banking and Business Generation. Some Common and widely faced insights of the customers are:
i. Nearest Bank from Home: This is a commonly felt sentiment of customers. Small businessmen, female customers, housewives choose to open account and transact within the shortest distance from business/home. They feel the nearest bank to be most secured for banking. Sometimes availability of a bank's service delivery channel nearby home also convinces customers to open account at a particular bank. Dutch Bangla is a widely known bank by the mass customers for its huge ATM network.
ii. Words of Mouth (WoM): A mediocre characteristic of small scale customers of our country. People trying to open a bank account often rely on words of mouth of relatives, friends, colleagues, neighbours, business partner(s) etc. This happens when a customer does not have enough knowledge on banks as well as banking services.
iii. Known Introducer: Sometimes a customer opens account with a bank of the introducer of his/her account. In Bangladesh, there are still a number of banks who refuse to open an account without an introducer of the account opener and also refuse to introduce him/her as the branch employee might not know the customer. Therefore, the customer looks for a friend or any known person having account with a bank to introduce him/her and make the account opening easily done. In this case, customers do not bother about the bank's brand image.
iv. Recognition of the Bank: Brand recognition by various awards, rankings regulatory authorities, government or international bodies plays an important role in customer recall. Customers always look for a reliable bank endorsed by trustworthy bodies.
v. Branding/Visibility/ATL Activities: Seeing turns into believing. Being a customer of a highly visible bank is a matter of good feeling for a lot of people. It creates a self created personality trait in the account holder.
vi. Emotional Attachment: Sometimes customers consider emotional attachments while opening or maintaining bank accounts. The first bank account of life, father's banking partner, business account, employer of family member(s) etc are irrelevant but sentimental issues often drive customers choose banks for accounts opening.
vii. Particular Service: Particular services like easy L/C opening, loan processing, issuing bank guarantee, holiday banking, online banking, 24/7 customer services, speedy and easy remittance services etc sometimes stimulate customers to open accounts with a particular bank. The customers may know about services through various advertising communications.
viii. Forced Decision: Salary accounts are opened by the employer's choice; but a customer may continue the account even after leaving that job based on the service excellence of the bank. Generally salary accounts are seen discontinued by the account holders fearing the transaction would be interfered by the previous employer who opened the account in favour of the account holder as his employee.
ix. Service Person's Excellence: Sometimes service delivery personnel like Direct Sales Executive, branch employee, manager etc are so motivating that customers feel at ease opening and maintaining accounts at the bank. Grameenphone launched a campaign named 'kacche thakun' (stay close) highlighting this insight.
x. Weakness toward Bank's Employee: Customers not only in banks but everywhere, wants the best possible service and compensation for their prices. Therefore, they look for a known person, i.e. friend, relative etc who might help them get better service than any other bank. Using references is a common nature of people in our country. Having someone as a reference soothes them thinking that would get them better banking services from the Bank.
xi. Service Delivery: Like food in a restaurant, service delivery is one of the core service marketing ingredients of service based organisations like banks. Customers are very sentimental about service delivery. A soft hearted and comprehensive service delivery can attach a customer to a bank forever.
xii. Service Delivery Channels: Several options of service delivery channels, i.e. ATM, Credit Cards, Internet, SMS, Locker services etc create a feeling of 'convenience in banking' at the customers' mindset. In services industry, customers love to get services at any point of time they need it. Moreover, customers feel better, thinking that they are able to receive required financial service when necessary.
xiii. Sense of Status: Being customer of a large and highly recognised bank creates a sense of status in a person. In Bangladesh, it is not advertised or highlighted in a befitting way, but in other countries, even in our neighbouring countries, in India or in Pakistan for examples, the fact is highly advertised to the customers, because it is a proven insight of the customers of banks.
xiv. Exclusive Offer: Exclusive offers like free account opening, zero balance a/c, special FDR rate, special loan rate etc attract a lot of customers for opening accounts. BRAC home loan, Prime Bank road show offering zero balance account opening, BRAC Bank's home loan campaign named 'Apon Ghor' (Home Loan) got enormous marketing mileage and feedback from customers. viii.
xv. Bunch of Benefits: This is the last thing that typical customers expect from any product or service brand. In fact, customers/consumers of a product or service always look for a bundle of amenities in exchange of the price they pay for. Universally any customer/consumer chooses a bank that offers the best bunch of amenities, i.e. better rate of deposit and loan, lower charges, minimum time consumption in service delivery, total quality management in operations etc.
xvi. Indifferent Account Opening: Opening of accounts with no special attention; for BO account opening, admissions to foreign universities, to encash checks of temporary jobs etc people need to open accounts in banks. The accounts are not really maintained as minutely as the personal accounts are maintained by the customers. This happens because account opening is easy and banks don't bother if a savings account becomes less active for a long time.
The insights of the retail banking customers discussed above are not individually unique and mutually exclusive. They vary from one customer to another. But they exist and demand minute attention of the professionals working with products or services or even brand development of banks. Marketing Planning and Strategies should always be formulated according to customer insights of the respective industry. Truth is, customer insights somehow match with the marketing planning done by most of the brands/organisations; because insights are basic thoughts of people which more or less match with the people preparing the plan. But that doesn't necessarily make a good plan, for sure. Taking insights into consideration makes clear difference between an ordinarily done planning without considering the insights and doing the opposite.
ASM Sabbir Hossein Khan is Senior Executive Officer and Brand Manager, Corporate Affairs Division, Mercantile Bank Limited.
Email: [email protected]