Time to Transform Banking in the Middle East

The Central Bank of Bahrain has announced its plans to launch the first phase of the national electronic wallet next month (Link). The eWallet will truly revolutionize the way banking is conducted in Bahrain to both the banks and customers.

Customers will be able to pay for their online and in-store purchases, and other institutions will be able to collect electronic payments via debit, credit, and prepaid cards all through the eWallet.

Such development got me thinking on the banking scene in Bahrain. It offers banks a wealth of opportunities to offer positive, simple, and rich customer experience.

It is no longer safe to say that saving and investment products, alone are enough to attract and retain customers.  According to EY’s 2014 Global Consumer Banking Survey (link), 41% of customers who opened a new account did so because of the customer experience.

Imagine passing by a grocery store to get a notification from your cellphone reminding you of buying milk? Or your bank’s mobile app advising you on how much money to put aside to reach a savings goal for that car you’ve been wanting to buy for so long? Not only that, but what if your bank could prepare you a report on where your spend your money the most (gas, restaurants, telecom. etc.) so you can better manage your budget?

A 2012 research from Peppers & Rogers Group and Efma, examining prevalence of customer centricity in Banking in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa concluded that embracing basic customer-centric activities, with further opportunities available to fully optimize the customer experience (link).

I think you can pretty much realize by now that banking is transforming; it doesn’t stop at digitizing customer centric services and enhancing the customer experience, but also extends to how branches operate.  Check out on how this company advocates the new role branches would play in the future of branch banking:

And do you know something? One bank is already implementing such innovative, customer centric solutions. It’s called Meem; a retail bank established by Gulf International Bank, which prides itself as being the first Shariah compliant digital bank in the world, and the first digital bank in the Middle east. Meem currently caters to customers in Saudi Arabia though.

However, enhancing customer experience, which is a common target for most companies’ nowadays, doesn’t simply involve improving a service. This is where companies fall short. The plan to enhance customer experience revolves around transformation. Just as there are external customers, there are also internal customers, who are the company’s own employees.

A company’s strategy, structure, people, management style, systems, and culture must all be accounted for when undergoing transformation projects. Strictly referring to digital transformation, nearly 80% of Customer Experience Management projects fail (link) because managers think that adopting software is transformation, internal capabilities and operations are not ready, and finally for not having a follow-up plan post implementation (link).

And it doesn’t stop there, to ensure the success of transformation projects, banks need to better understand their customers’ behavior and invest in Big Data analytics to establish a strong foundation for such projects. Banks must gather, analyze, and act on customer data to help identify the value, needs, and behaviors of segmented customer groups (link).

It is time for banks, specifically in the Middle East, to make an effort and evolve from simply being banks for savings and investments, to a role that revolves around understanding how its products and services play in their customer’s lives, and to making these products and services available in the right place, at the right time, and in the right way to their customers. To achieve successful customer outcomes in a very competitive market, Middle East banks ought to re-engineer their processes and simplify and digitize their products and services without neglecting transforming the the inside of the organization, and lobbying for proper legislation.

An Excellent Customer Experience with MOO

Design and print customized business cards with MOO! This is the website description that appears to you when you search for MOO on Google. This online business offers its customers the ability to create beautiful, expertly crafted business stationery and promotional materials through an easy to use web interface. MOO’s promise to its customers is: “When we say we’re not happy until you’re happy, we really do mean it”, and I attest to that.

I recently made an order with MOO. I wanted premium and customized business cards at an affordable price; so I turned to MOO. The experience was simple and straightforward. I created an account, chose a designed, customized the design a little bit with their easy to use interface, printed a proof of concept to make sure I liked what I’m about to order, inserted my shipping address and I was done.

What I didn’t expect was this, somehow my order was misplaced and I received someone else’s business cards. Apparently the shipping labels were mixed-up, because the other person received my cards. I wasn’t bothered or frustrated at all. Mistakes do happen. I was though a little disappointed that my first order wasn’t very successful, but that was it.

What truly mattered to me was what happened after I got in touch with MOO to fix the error. I went online and explained the issue with their customer service representative via LiveChat. Nick (MOO’s customer service representative) was very responsive and didn’t take much time to investigate the issue. He asked about my order number, what the issue was, and almost immediately issued a reprint of my order. I didn’t have to even ask!

But wait, it gets better. MOO decided to upgrade my shipping option to expedite the card’s arrival to my door steps.

Again, I stress the notion that I didn’t ask for anything. It was simply MOO’s desire to ensure that I, the customer, had nothing less of an excellent and memorable customer experience.

The Science

Actually there is a science behind all of this. A study by Aspect Software and The Center for Generational Kinetics issued last year found that:

76% of consumers say they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. (Aspect)

Another study by Temkin Group concluded that

Loyal customers are 5x as likely to repurchase, 5x as likely to forgive, 7x as likely to try a new offering, and 4x as likely to refer. (Temkin Group)

There are many business out there that could learn a lesson or two from MOO:

  • Ensure an excellent customer experience for your clients to obtain their loyalty, not just satisfaction.
  • Empower your customer service staff to take action when things go wrong; because it really wouldn’t make sense for me to wait until Nick went back to his boss, explained the situation, and decided what to do next.

So will I order from MOO again? You bet I will. I’m telling the whole world right now about their promise of ensuring the customer’s happiness. Was I annoyed that my order was misplaced? Not at all. Who would get annoyed with such business that accepts its mistakes and ensures that you’re happy!?