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Customer Centric: just another buzzword?


News - 22 April 2018

Businesses often talk about being ‘customer centric’, but for many the term is simply lip service. ABN AMRO’s Commercial Director Debbie Bell talks to us about how the Banks cultural principle “Crazy for Clients” is brought to life with a real focus on continuous improvement, execution and delivery.

Whether you’re at a conference or a presentation with a supplier, it’s hard not to roll your eyes when the term ‘customer centric’ pops up on a PowerPoint slide. Buzzwords like that quickly lose their meaning and become abstract marketing strategies or vague aspirations.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s what we learned about how ABN AMRO lives their mantra “Crazy for Clients” and uses it to underpin the businesses strategy where the customer takes centre stage.

The key ingredient is transparency. Our parent group ABN AMRO, based in the Netherlands, doesn’t keep secrets from its employees and ensures inclusion is high on the agenda. In the Commercial Finance team, we think that’s a winning strategy. We all know exactly how we fit into the bigger picture, how we play a part in the ambition for international growth and how this shared goal is fundamental to feeling part of a team. We regularly share performance information with our people, and we’re clear about what we expect from them regarding customers. If they feel engaged and empowered, so do (hopefully) our customers – it’s an inside-out approach that we are passionate about.

It’s got to be authentic though - when HQ says they want to expand internationally, our people see those aspirations backed by action, which is essential in keeping our workforce continuously engaged. We’re seeing a lot of investment, specifically funds to digitalise our systems to enhance the customer experience and free up our time to spend proactively supporting their ambitions.

Suits you, sir
Customers - especially business customers – demand responsiveness and in this increasingly digital age, certain things have become hygiene. You have to change with the times or die - so we had to rip up the rulebook. We went through a lean management programme with some of the bank's efficiency 'black belts' to ensure our processes were pin sharp and future proof.

We put a big emphasis on critical analysis on the way we do things in order to see whether they were relevant, necessary... or just cumbersome. A key area we unearthed for improvement was the new client on-boarding process. It was a real eye opener to step back with objectivity and see how many steps it took.

Another breakthrough came when we put colleagues in a hotel for three days, told them to tear up the current process, and start again. To support the new on-boarding process, we brought in a daily huddle - a process to ensure everyone across the business knows what stage of the on-boarding process each new client is at and works together to make the experience as smooth and fast as possible.

This approach has had a significant impact on our ability to make funding available to our clients quicker than ever before. The old adage "time is money" is never more true in this scenario - when business growth may depend on reliable working capital and the opportunities that it might open up.

A score to settle
Having our clients assess our performance is essential for us. We measure their satisfaction in key areas and ask how they would like us to improve. 93% customer satisfaction doesn’t make us complacent though - but the best test is whether they would recommend us –a true measure for advocacy above satisfaction. So seeing a Net Promoter Score of +71 – the average in financial services is +46 – is very reassuring. In fact, around half of respondents said they had already recommended ABN AMRO to a business acquaintance or colleague.

It gives us a focus for our customer centricity efforts: protecting and capitalising on that goodwill. And part of this is about freeing up time for our people on the ground to be proactive business partners to our clients.

Our relationship managers played an integral role in helping us achieve customer delight. They typically have around 40 clients each – with large corporates, it’s more like ten. Giving our managers time to focus on customer needs – really listening and pro-actively tailoring our offering, not just selling – is key.

The result? They’re available at the drop of a hat, and they’re able to think ahead on behalf of our clients – being proactive and pre-emptive to their needs which might even include pre-approving new facilities before being asked.

These are just some of the ways in which we take our “Crazy for Clients” culture principle and make it a reality everyday. It’s not just a buzzword for us – it’s an approach, a passion, a focus for delivery.