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Building Strong Relationship With Customers In Financial Services Industry



ZAKA ABD-KHALIQ examines the relationship between players in the financial service sector and their respective customers.

In business, it is believed that big brands are built around people and that central to any business enterprise is the people.

Experts said the survival or otherwise of a firm depends largely on how it manages its customers and how strong the umbilical cord between a company and its customers is.

Customers are always treated as kings because the selling of products and services revolve around them. Building strong relationship between a company and its customers is seen as the heartbeat of business survival as it allows firms maintain existing customers and attract new customers.

According to the chief executive officer  of ACT Foundation, Osayi Alile, the benefits of establishing a good relationship with customers are numerous including continuous referrals, which research has shown is one of the best forms of marketing a business and building the bottom-line.

A good relationship with customers, she said, can serve as an indication that they believe in what such business stands for, acknowledge and trust the expertise in the industry and believe in the value the company has to offer.

With stiff competition among competing brands growing on a daily basis, companies are now going extra length to know their customers the more. In this case, they send congratulatory messages to clients on their birthday, wedding anniversary, and so on, constantly notifying customers of new and existing products, constant reminder of expiration of termed products and services, among others.

Most firms even adopt promo to consistently persuade customers to stay with their respective brands. In all these, they are trying to cement a cordial relationship with their clients.

This is a semblance of the scenario that is playing out in financial service sector of the nation’s economy. The banks, insurance companies, Pension Fund operators and capital market players are adopting several strategies to build a stronger relationship with their respective clients.

The Nigerian financial system includes financial markets (money and capital markets), financial institutions including the regulatory and supervisory authorities and other finance institutions (insurance companies, pension funds, among others).

LEADERSHIP findings show that while banks have gone ahead of other sectors in the financial system, with Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) and stockbrokers  following them, insurance companies are still lagging behind in term of providing good relationship with their customers.

Banking Sector Customers

Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) have consistently provided seamless services to customers by using IT platforms to decongest the banking hall. While virtually all the banks are now offering internet banking, thereby, making financial transaction simple and comfortable, all the banks and their respective branches equally have functional  help desks in banking halls nationwide that address the complaints of customers. Hence, this quality service delivery has made banks the toast of Nigerians.

Of the 10 bank account holders interviewed by LEADERSHIP over the weekend, eight of them expressed optimum satisfaction about services they are getting from their banks.

One of the customers, Mr. Kareem Ayanwale said his bank will always send birthday wishes to him on his birthdays and give exclusive treatment to him and other customers at banking hall, even as the bank also had mouthwatering promos, especially towards year end to reward customers.

However, Mr. Ashem Timothy, another customer with a first generation bank, expressed satisfaction on the services he is getting from his bank, but believes the charges are too high, calling on banks and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to come to the rescue.

“I am happy with the service my bank provides but I am unhappy with several deductions they are doing on my account. The charges are too high and I think the regulatory body should caution banks on this. There are a lot of unnecessary charges in banks that must be quickly addressed,” he stated.

Despite this, he still believes that the advantages of having a bank account far out-ways the challenges arising from it.

‎Pension Customer Service

The Pension industry is blessed with N8.23 trillion Pension assets as at the end of June, 2018. The coming of Pension Reforms Act (PRA) 2004, now PRA 2014, kick started the era of new Pension scheme, known as Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) in Nigeria.

The law demands that an employee and an employer must jointly contribute 18 per cent pension into the Retirement Savings Account(RSA) of a worker on a monthly basis.

According to the director, Centre for Pension Rights Advocacy (CPRA), Mr. Takor Ivor, Section 1 of Pension Reform Act 2004, the forerunner of the current Pension Reform Act 2014 as well as section 3 of the 2014 Act, established the Contribution Pension Scheme, adding that, while  the Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) takes investment decision on the Pension Funds, Pension Fund Custodians (PFCs) are actually in the custody of the fund. So, it’s the PFAs who interact with Pension contributors.

Speaking on behalf of the contributors, Ivor said, the services most PFAs are providing to their customers are good, as they have improved in the use of IT platforms to reach out to their clients, he noted that there are few PFAs whose services are bad, believing that the opening of Pension transfer window will make them improve on services rendered.

Most PFAs, he said, regularly updates their contributors on the growth of their pension Fund which are mostly due to monthly contribution and investment returns, saying, each contributors can track the growth of his pension through this means.

In terms of building stronger relationship with clients, Mr. Kunle Adebisi, an RSA holder believes PFAs are better than insurance companies, although, he said, the banking sector and telecommunication companies still have more edge.

Capital Market  Customers

Speaking on behalf of shareholders in an interview with LEADERSHIP at the weekend, the President, Progressive Shareholders Association of Nigeria(PSAN), Mr. Boniface Okezie, said stockbrokers have improved in their service delivery to shareholders, even though, there is always room for improvement.

He said most stockbrokers have serious relationship with shareholders because of their quality service delivery, thereby, gaining the trust of their customers.  He, however, said, there are few stockbrokers who are involved in share manipulation and malpractices, but that the regulatory body have appropriately sanctioned those found culpable.

Insurance sector customers service

Insurance industry seems to be far behind in delivering quality services to its clients and unless operators improve in this regard, the low insurance penetration in the country will continue.

Severally, insurance industry have been accused of poor customer relations and service delivery. On many occasions, insurance consumers  have identified slow response of insurance operators to payment or non-payment of claims, lack of innovative products, slow response to complaints, among others, as issues that must be quickly addressed, if underwriters are determined to build a strong ties with policyholders.

Speaking on behalf insurance consumers at an interactive session with major consumers of insurance products and services organised by the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) in Lagos, the president/chief executive, Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote regretted that most insurance operators do not provide relevant solution to the needs of the sector  they play in because they lack the full understanding of the nature of these businesses.

Dangote, who was represented by the group chief risk & insurance officer, group chief procurement officer, Dangote Industries Limited,  Dr (Ms) Adenike Fajemirokun, urged underwriters to be prompt in claims payment, as delay may impaired or ruin the business.

Earlier, the Commissioner for Insurance, Alhaji Mohammed Kari, said: “the different  between great and poor customer service has always been clear, and businesses on the wrong end of this spectrum usually pay a price. This is as true for insurance as it is for any other customer-facing business. Today, the consequences of subpar service are amplified by the speed and reach of social media.

“One poorly handled claim, one mistake captured on a smart phone could escalate quickly into a brand-damaging crisis. This is why we believe it has become imperative that insurance firms increased their focus on providing great customer experience,” he added.

Building Strong Customer Relationships

Listing some steps companies can build concrete relationships with customers, Osayi Alile, said data is critical to knowing one’s customers, as it allows a company gathers  information that provides details of customers’ preferences and tastes to create heartfelt experiences that are memorable or valuable. She added that at the base of great relationships is effective communication, noting that since the turn of this millennium, more advanced means of communication have emerged. As a business owner or manager, you must explore channels that works best for your target audience, she advised.

While believing mistakes are common in every human relationship and a business is operated by human beings, she stressed that, when addressing the concerns of customers, companies must confront it head-on, offer an apology to the offended customer, acknowledge their feedback and assure them to remedy the situation.

Calling on proactive companies to make conscious effort to share information or resources that would help  improve their respective clients livelihood, which would indirectly impact the business positively, she warned that customers, by their nature, always want to save money, the best products, affordable prices, while some just want personalised experiences, which heed to their individual interests.

The competitive environment and the changes in the world economy as a result of globalisation, deregulation, privatisation, financial meltdown, and the modern advancement in technology, according to Mohammed Kari, gives insurers the opportunity to transform their business operations and realigned with customers by understanding the needs of the consumers and ensuring an enhanced and efficient delivery of products and services.

‘‘We are aware that the satisfaction of consumers of product and services plays a vital role in the