Sarel van Zyl, who is the CEO of FNB Namibia, recently applauded the ambitious aim of the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) to make Namibia the most competitive economy in Africa by 2020.
He said that while he did not doubt that this was achievable, he nevertheless felt that everyone in the public sector, as well as private sector, should unite in their effort to improve customer service and adopt a zero tolerance for any form of service failure.
Van Zyl added that President Geingob recently said that Namibia needed a service oriented and high performance culture.
“In my mind, any service strategy needs to stand on three pillars, namely, strong and sustainable relationships with key internal and external stakeholders, the use of technology to improve the efficiency of service delivery, and the employer (or shareholder).
He elaborated on the three pillars by adding that he felt stakeholders could and should be divided into internal and external stakeholders. “I am of the opinion that the most important internal stakeholder in the service industry is our staff and often our back office staff who don’t interact with clients directly in many instances. This is where it all stands or falls. Our staff is always the most important interface between our organizational goals and the client’s expectations. It is therefore important to employ the right people in the right roles and according to their strengths or personality profile. We have to guard against square pegs in round holes as this is nine out of ten times where bad service experiences are coming from.”
Van Zyl went on to say that the second important issue was to reward the right behaviour, adding that FNB has started with “outcomes based remuneration”, where they will pay the sales people according to their sales performance, tellers according to their telling performance and service consultants based on their service delivery.
“A high performance culture as referred to by the president, can only develop if we follow government’s example of entering into performance contracts to facilitate performance reviews, and customer service has to carry a high weighting on those scorecards.”
When looking at external stakeholders, Van Zyl said that these played a critical role in the bank’s service delivery model, and if, for example, the PIN number was not delivered very quickly when doing an online money transfer, the bank was blamed for this.
“It is therefore very important to analyse the business properly, and identify those people who have an indirect impact on your service delivery reputation, and introduce very strong service level agreements with them which very clearly spells out the consequences for failures, so that you can hold them accountable when things go wrong.”
“Obviously the other very important external stakeholder in our business is the customer. They force us to re-think the way in which we are doing business. It is therefore critical that we observe, create platforms to listen to them, and learn!
There are many ways in which to do this – complaints registered in our branches, focus groups with customers, external customer surveys, mystery shopper, but the one that is gaining the most ground currently is social media. Interesting stats on social media are that there are more than 2 billion active social media accounts around the world, which means that one out of every four individuals use social media. If it is important to listen to customers, I think it is even more important to give feedback to customers, and do to what we promised to do. What we need to understand is that where previous communications were on a ratio of one to six, it has changed to one to 6 000. Namibia is therefore no longer in isolation, but is directly linked to the rest of the world via social media.”
The second important pillar Van Zyl elaborated on was the use of technology to assist the bank to satisfy customer needs in a more efficient manner. “The single biggest challenge we have in FNB is our queues, especially on Fridays, Mondays and month-ends. We believe that the solution to queues is in using digital products and channels and the fact that our branch transactions have not grown year on year, compared to the phenomenal growth in digital transactions, is testimony to that.”
Van Zyl concluded by elaborating on the third pillar and said: “The third pillar in our service model is us – the employers or shareholders.
Are we serious about customer service, or is it simply lip service, because some fancy business model suggests we must have a service plan? Do we really create an environment which makes it possible for our staff to provide the service that our clients demand from them, or are we overly concerned about the expenses budget? Do we create enough capacity to service our volumes during peak periods of the business cycle? When last did you visit the engine room of your business to really observe and experience first-hand what is going on?”
“We accept the challenge to join hands with our president, Dr Hage Geingob, to create a service oriented culture in Namibia across all walks of life, because we can!”