Getting to the ‘Root’ of Customer Centricity
As I was walking around one of the BisB branches the other day, I overheard Ali, a customer-service employee, recommend a competitor’s product to his client. Naturally, I stopped dead in my tracks and stood on the sidelines listening to the rest of the conversation. The customer had specific requirements and we did not have a suitable product to match his needs. Ali thought it was the right thing to do to point the customer towards another Bank that had the right product to match his requirements. And I could not have been prouder.
To me, this is the epitome of customer centricity; a genuine desire to want to help customers even if it means losing a piece of business. At the end of the day, I am certain that, THAT particular customer will always remember Ali for his friendly, credible, honest advice, and for putting his interests first. And Ali’s kind gesture and reputation will reflect on BisB.
In a world of digitisation and fierce competition, customer-centricity has become the ‘buzz’ word in many organisations. Most top executives understand that achieving customer excellence is more than just a pillar in their business strategy; today, it is the single, most critical differentiator that can make or break a company. Yet many fail to do it right.
This warrants the question: Can we truly create a customer-centric business? In my experience, the answer is an unequivocal ‘yes’. It simply requires the right approach.
First off, commitment from the top is a must. Customer-centricity should not just be a boardroom discussion. Executive management needs to be as committed to putting the customer first as each client-facing employee, if not more. They need to take a close, honest look at the existing work culture, and decide whether the company’s values, people, and way of doing business are conducive to making a customer-centric shift. Is the organisation capable of placing the customer at the heart of its business model? And if not, what needs to change?
A few years ago, we carried out a similar exercise at BisB. Although the Bank took pride in being guided by the Islamic ideals of treating others with generosity, consideration, kindness and warmth, I realised that this was no longer enough to maintain a true connection with our customers. Competition in our industry is fierce, and we needed to stand out. So we embarked on a journey of self-discovery. We assessed the good, the bad and the ugly; and we were very critical with our assessment. We needed to know if we had the right components to transform into a truly customer-centric bank. We took a 360 degree look at our business, both from an operational and a people’s front. What we found was that every single person that worked in the Bank, shared in the same basic ‘Bahraini’ values of hospitality, comradeship, integrity and empathy. No matter what their job description was, everyone united in their basic fundamental ‘roots’.
What came out of that exercise forms the basis of our rejuvenated DNA and gave us the push to embark on our journey to becoming a customer-first organisation.
We knew we had the right pool of people with the right fundamentals to help carry our vision forward. We began to empower them, provided training, and tried to create an environment that inspired new ways of thinking and working in order to boost collaboration and innovation. Our employees worked alongside one another and our DNA began to organically transcen into our business model, giving rise to a new era of customer service.
Next came the customer. Many of the companies that fail in customer service do so because they are stuck in the old-school mentality of creating a product or service FIRST, with the customer very much at the ending stages of the process. Once upon a time, it was all down to customer surveys and insight reports to gauge customer feedback, which remain valuable tools today but are very impersonal.
We wanted to evolve our organisation around the needs of our clients and it was necessary to make a complete shift in mind-set. We started engaging with our customers in conversation, acquiring their insights, gauging their opinions; all this to better understand what they need from us to help them achieve their business goals. It might sound cliché but customer-first organisations understand that if they are going to be successful, their customers need to be happy first. Helping our customers navigate through to success is where we add value. Innovation is key to progress, but we can’t innovate alone. We need to co-create.
Are we there yet? Not even close to where I personally would like us to be but we are on the right path. We know that our people are our strength, and have been an integral part of the growth of our Bank’s DNA which forms the backbone of our guiding principles today. Every day, we are striving to make progress. Establishing a customer-centric culture is an evolving journey and we are committed to seeing it through, leaving no stone unturned until we deliver a truly transformative experience.