It's time to build "the relevant bank"

The relevant bank concept challenges attempts to finish the roof before starting the foundations. What does being the relevant bank actually mean? First and foremost, it means being relevant personally – offering products and services consumers want, at the moments and through the channels they prefer, Nic Parmaksizian writes

The relevant bank concept challenges attempts to finish the roof before starting the foundations. What does being the relevant bank actually mean? First and foremost, it means being relevant personally – offering products and services consumers want, at the moments and through the channels they prefer, Nic Parmaksizian writes

For some time, one of the bits of received wisdom in consumer banking circles has been that you focus on high value customers and endeavour to engage them with high value products and services. In itself, there is of course nothing wrong with that idea. In fact it makes perfect and pretty obvious commercial sense.

Where it falls down however is in the sequencing. It’s like trying to build a glittering golden dome on top of a building that doesn’t yet have any foundations! The high value offers are the golden dome. The basic business of building trust and sustained customer satisfaction are the foundations, walls and cross-ties. The parts that make the building stand up.

Trust and lasting satisfaction come from some apparently ordinary – mundane even – sources. This is about the most basic and clear needs: managing accounts, safely holding cash, processing transactions, providing credit. Problem is, although they may be basic, they’re still not being delivered right, every time. Complaints data show that most banks still fail to satisfy these needs flawlessly. Yet they are the very foundation of relevance. And once they are solidly in place, the climb towards "pinnacle service" and high value, lasting relationships can begin.

Is it even feasible, let alone worthwhile, aspiring to pinnacle service levels?

It is certainly feasible. Banks that understand the concept and the importance of customer relevance can use strategy and technology to raise the consistency of their process. Predictable levels of first time satisfaction of basic customer needs go up.

It is also highly worthwhile. It’s significant that institutions with the highest investment levels in customer service are also the most profitable. Becoming relevant by earning customer trust and loyalty pays off. Customers are happier to have those high value conversations. But the Relevant Bank doesn’t try to start at the top. It engages the customer from a solid base.

There is no doubt that bank customers are changing. They are applying the values and demands of their other consumer and brand relationships to their bank. Only the Relevant Bank can survive and exceed their expectations.