PUBLIC Bank is placing great importance on service quality as part of its marketing strategy, evident from the considerable success in its implementation of a two-minute standard waiting time.
“We are now the talk of the town in terms of improvement in customer waiting time,'' its managing director Datuk Tay Ah Lek told StarBiz.
“Over 90% of our branches are able to comply with the two-minute standard waiting time. Our medium- to long-term plan is to have all areas of operations and service documented and certified according to international ISO standards, thus bringing our service standards to world-class levels,'' he said.
The bank had already obtained ISO certification for front-line service for all its branches in 2001. Recently, a certification for customer service in loan delivery was obtained, covering three branches in the Klang Valley and the head office.
By the end of the year, all branches, including those of Public Finance (which will be merged with the bank), will be certified for loan delivery encompassing loans processing, approvals, disbursements and securities documentation. This ISO certification will also cover all credit facilities, including the card business.
“In view of the increasingly competitive business environment, the bank believes that quality service may be the new standard that customers will use to measure banks' performance,'' Tay said, adding that product differentiation for financial institutions was reduced as banking products became more homogeneous.
From now, it is service quality that will actually make the product differentiation.
“The differentiation factor will be how fast and how conveniently we can deliver the service,'' Tay said, adding that within the up-and-coming services industry, financial services were a major area providing support to economic growth.
Other initiatives in the area of service quality include the setting up of special counters for senior citizens and expectant mothers, one-minute transaction time for core transactions, an efficient complaint management system and the practice of GUEST (Greeting, Using names, Eye-to-eye contact, Smile, Thanking customers by all counter staff). Customer care campaigns are also conducted from time to time.
“IT systems and machines are being provided for faster and more convenient service,'' Tay noted. “But it is still a case of high tech versus high touch for segments of customers who still prefer to have face-to-face interaction with staff at the bank counters and to be given personal service. In view of that, we make sure that good personal service is always in place, and train our staff to practise it as a service standard throughout the branches.''
In fact, Bank Negara has been playing an active catalyst role in driving domestic banks to enhance customer service standards.
In its quarterly benchmarking statistics, customer service standards of domestic banks are measured against and compared with the best in the industry, including that of foreign-controlled banks in the country.
“This is a major effort by Bank Negara to prepare the domestic banks for greater competition and liberalisation ahead,'' Tay said. “We understand that Bank Negara is conducting a survey on customer satisfaction for banking services and we, at our end, are also pro-active and have continued on our own improvements in service.''
The next area of customer service at Public Bank is the customer complaints system with emphasis that all complaints should be resolved in less than 14 days.
“Complaints should be treated as opportunities to rectify a problem and staff are trained to be receptive,'' Tay said.
Pride and reputation are two ideals strongly inculcated among the staff at the bank.
”Through training, the staff be- lieve in quality of service and take pride in maintaining service levels and standards. And reputation of the bank, especially in being able to provide superior service, will be of strategic importance,'' he said.
According to Tay, staff members are being trained to do more than what is expected by the customers.
“In this way, the service rendered will be perceived to be exceptional,'' he said.
In strategising service quality as a marketing tool, Public Bank hopes to achieve higher customer loyalty, improved market share and increase in new sales.
Service quality is an intangible thing that can only be perceived and felt by the parties involved.
Indices and indicators may measure the levels of satisfaction but it is the people themselves and their consistent input as well as commitment that finally count.
In this respect, Tay said, the bank was happy to have the full support of the staff.
Tay said: “It is not just the counter staff or those with direct contact with customers but from the branch managers downwards and head office support staff. The commitment to deliver superior customer service is apparent. We also need to maintain consistency in levels of service.
“The ISO certification is subject to review once every three years. That keeps us on our toes and forces us to ensure that the system is consistently up to standards.''
Under the quality management systems for loan delivery are four components:
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