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Efficiency,resource optimization and the effect on customers

The events of 2007-08 brought banking focus back on to cost efficiency, resource optimisation and all the good stuff in between. But, while enjoying the fruits of this labour, how can banks ensure that the latter doesn’t create pain points for their customers? What is the risk that well-intentioned action will negate itself by jeopardising customer interest?

By and large, improvement in efficiency or optimisation has sufficient upside to lay such fears to rest. The key is to place the customer at the heart of any decision, because this ensures that banks don’t cross over into the territory of cost cutting excess.

Assuming that a bank arrives at a balanced strategy, a higher efficiency or resource utilisation spells good news for its customers. Since banking is so process driven, process improvement is a major milestone in any efficiency journey.  Better processes make for all-round convenience by shortening the time and effort needed by an employee to attend to a customer’s request, or for the customer to help himself. And when processes are rationalised and made consistent across touch points or geographies even, they ensure that customers enjoy a comparable experience regardless of the mode of interaction.

In addition to crashing the bank’s cost per transaction, channel automation delivers much value to its end customers. The proliferation and ubiquity of self-help channels has changed banking habits beyond recognition. It is now unthinkable for customers to queue for a service or bank only during office hours. They choose their banking channel and device depending on the context of each transaction. And they don’t want bank staff to help with something they could so easily do by themselves. Also, customers are taking this spirit of independence beyond routine transactions, using online tools to manage their personal finances.

The emergence of social platforms has added teeth to marketing resource optimisation, enabling banks to reach out to millions of customers at a fraction of the cost and effort associated with traditional media. At the same time, it has opened the floodgates of collaborative participation to consumers. This is their territory, a place where they connect with like-minded people and voice their opinion directly to the providers of goods and services. Social media might be a stepping stone to efficiency for banks, but to their customers, it’s a place where they can speak up and be heard.

Of course, if banks choose to pass on the financial gains of efficiency improvement to their customers, that would be the icing on the cake.


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