Service Quality And Customer Satisfaction In Rural And Community Banks (RCBs)
At the commencement of rural banking, almost all the customers of RCBs did not have choices of financial services. They had to deal with the only rural bank that was available in their communities.
The customers of RCBs in the early years of rural banking are no more the same. Gradually, the level of awareness of those customers is steadily rising due to many factors, such as increases in the level customer education, education levels of customers’ children and relations, increasing interaction with other persons from urban communities, the gradual entry into rural communities by other financial institutions that were initially operating only in urban areas, and the availability of more options for financial services, such as the mobile money services (Momo) from the Telecommunications companies.
The concepts of service quality and customer satisfaction are just like the two sides of a coin, but they are both integral parts of what is recently termed customer service. In this piece, the author attempts to avoid a heavy dose of academic and theoretical approach, but will concentrate more on relevant material that can be useful to practitioners in rural banking.
In this magazine, service quality and customer satisfaction will be published in about three or more parts. Overall, the full coverage of service quality and customer satisfaction will deal with
- relevant key concepts,
- the determinants of service quality and
- approaches to the assessment and measurement of customer satisfaction as well as the practical application of service quality and customer satisfaction in the RCB sector.
Relevant Concepts and Key Pillars
This section deals with the key concepts and pillars that will constitute the framework for ensuring quality ustomer service and excellent customer satisfaction. These concepts and pillars of service quality are explained in the immediate ensuing paragraphs.
Customer service refers to all organizational ettorts that are inter- related and directed towards ensuring that high or excellent customer satisfaction is attained, through the delivery of excellent service quality. Instead of focusing on the debates in the literature on customer service, there is the need to pay attention to some practical tips on how to improve on customer service, as suggested by some writers and researchers. Such tips include the following:
a) Treating your customers like human beings. This means treating them with dignity and not being annoyed at them for interrupting your day.
This also means expecting them to act like responsible adults. Too
many businesses believe that good customer service means bowing to the whims of every customer who has a complaint.
That solves the immediate problem of an angry customer, but sometimes it is not the best. Know when there is a real problem that needs fixing and fix it well, but do not let people walk all over you.
b) Go beyond the minimum to make your customers love you. If there is a real problem, and you can do just a little more to make a customer’s day, he or she is going to remember it. You will get a lot more repeat business (regular business from the same customer), and word- of-mouth advertising (from the customer to others), if you over- deliver.
c) Do not make excuses. If it is your fault, say so. Never try to blame it on the customer. It is amazing what a ditterence it can make if you just say “An error has been made, but I will make it right”. Your customer will see you a lot ditterently if you do not make excuses.
d) Do not take it personal. The customer is directing his/her frustration at you. However, the customer is angry about the situation, not angry at you, specifically. Taking things personally just introduces anger into the situation and makes it harder to fix the problem.
e) Listen to your customers. Do not assume you know what they want. Your customers may have some good things to say, even if they are not experts in your business.
f) Think about what you are promising to your customer. It is easy to get carried away and otter more promises than you can easily deliver. Always pay close attention to what you are promising, and do not let a customer talk you into doing the impossible.
g) Allow the customer to feel like he/she is a priority. Do not answer the phone call of your customer whilst doing something else. Spend the few minutes it takes ettort to really pay attention to your customer.
h) Get to tackle the problems right away. No one wants to deal with something unpleasant, but if you let a complaint sit, it is not going to get any better on its own. Follow up. Call after a problem has been dealt with.
Service quality and customer satisfaction
According to many writers and researchers on this subject, a service is basically an intangible performance delivered to another party by an individual, a group or an entity. The terms “quality” and “service” are unavoidably and closely linked to the concept of service quality.
The three key characteristics of services are intangibility, heterogeneity, and inseparability. This point is further reinforced by the fact that services, by their nature, do not lend themselves to counting, measuring, testing and inventory. Given these characteristics, firms are constantly put in very difficult situations where they have little or no control in determining how consumers perceive and assess the quality of their service.
Some experts have pointed out that that “quality” is the meeting of a customer’s requirements. Whilst this definition is useful, many have maintained that it is very tedious to define quality. Many support the definition that quality is based on the perception of the customer; and therefore quality is defined as whatever the customer perceives as quality. This article adopts the meaning of service quality given by Gerson (1993) that is based on the customer’s perception and judgement;
which states that quality is what the customer says it is.
Based on the close linkage between service quality and customer satisfaction, it is generally accepted that a customer who rates a service as good quality is a satisfied customer; whilst a customer who rates a service as poor quality is a dissatisfied customer.
Achieving high levels of customer satisfaction requires that organizations continually monitor and examine the experiences, opinions, and suggestions of their customers and people who are potential customers. Improving service quality to meet customers’ standards is an ongoing part of doing business.
A captive customer is a customer who keeps doing business with an organization because he/she has no other option even if he/she is dissatisfied. In many of our rural bank agencies, there are no other financial institutions. The fact that our customers continue to do business with our banks does not mean that they are satisfied with our services. They have no choice. This situation makes them “captive customers”. One indicator that our customers are satisfied with our service is that customers continue to do business with our bank, even after a competitor has appeared in our business environment.
Satisfied and dissatisfied customers
In studies and surveys to assess or measure customer satisfaction and service quality, various categorizations or classifications can be made; and these are described in the ensuring paragraphs.
Satisfied Customer: Only a good service quality will result in a situation where there are satisfied customers. In the measurement of customer satisfaction, there can be further sub-classifications for a satisfied customer, such as a satisfied customer and a very satisfied customer.
Dissatisfied Customer: A dissatisfied customer can be found in a situation where there is poor service quality. In the measurement of customer satisfaction, there can be further sub-classifications for a dissatisfied customer, such as
a dissatisfied customer and a very dissatisfied customer.
Partial Satisfied/Dissatisfied Customer: In many studies on customer satisfaction and service quality, some customers do not rate a service as good quality or poor quality, but rather rate it as marginal quality.
Where a study finds out that a service delivered is of marginal quality, the customers who provide such a rating or assessment are described as partially satisfied customers or partially dissatisfied customers.
Customer Service Charter (CSC)
A Customer Service Charter contains key service performance standards in a customer-focused organization. Standards of customer service identify and communicate what constitutes satisfactory performance for all employees and customers. These standards provide uniform measures for all statt, and promote consistent strong customer service. Once those performance standards are in place, an organization can hold employees accountable for performing below the expected performance standards. The CSC (which contains the performance standards) is like the performance- compass for a customer-focused organization. A typical specimen of a CSC contains the following, among other requirements:
Client Service Unit (CSU)
A client-focused bank must have a CSU. The CSU monitors how employees are complying with the service standards within the service charter. The CSU is the place where dissatisfied or aggrieved customers can go to seek redress.
Internal customers and suppliers
In all organizations, employees have to work in a well-coordinated manner so as to satisfy the external/final customer. In a situation within an organization, the work of employee B may start from where the work of A ends. In this simple situation, B is the internal customer of A who is the internal supplier of B. Where B’s work output becomes the input for the work of C, B now becomes an internal supplier to C who is B’s internal customer. Internal suppliers and customers are employees. Where there is poor coordination between internal suppliers and internal customers, customer service may be poor, and service quality can be assessed or rated to be of poor quality, thereby, resulting in customer dissatisfaction. The external customer eventually sutters from the poor coordination between internal suppliers and internal customers
The external customer is the final customer in the chain of service delivery. He/she is the final recipient of the final output, whether a tangible product r a service, which is intangible. He/ she is an outsider and is not part of the organization. It is the perception of this external customer that matters. In the banking sector, the account holder (of a savings, current, fixed deposit ccount) is the bank’s external customer. When assessing or measuring service quality, it is the perception of the external customer that matters. It is this perception that determines whether a bank’s service is good quality, very good quality, marginal quality, poor quality or very poor quality. Whilst this publication is the beginning, the methodology of measuring service quality will be the final stage of the series of publications on this subject.
Determinants of service quality and customer satisfaction Understanding the determinants of ervice quality and customer satisfaction is the heart of this subject on customer service. It is the concern for excellent customer service that compels service providers to know and how to improve upon the key determinants of service quality. Focusing on the determinants of service quality and customer satisfaction will be the main component of the next publication or the part II of this article.
To be continued...
About the author
Dr Alhaji Yahaya Abdul-Rahman is a Practicing Chartered Accountant since 1995 and holds a PGD from Coady Institute. Canada. He holds a BSc Admin (accounting), an M. Phil in Social Work and a Ph D in Public Admin, all from Legon, with research experience in service quality and customer satisfaction. Outside rural banking, Dr Yahaya has occupied positions (1995-2008) as Chief Auditor, Credit Manager, HR Manager, and Financial Controller at places such as GCB Bank, ELF Oil (now Total) and GIPC. Dr Yahaya has been associated with rural banking since 1984-85, when he was a manager trainee at the Nandom and Naara Rural Banks.
Between 1985 and 1990, he managed the Sonzele and Bessfa Rural Banks. Dr Yahaya has over 20 years consulting and lecturing experience with the EU, EC, UNDP, World Bank, VRA, Ghana Govt, the National Banking College, UPS, and UDS. He is currently the CEO/Managing Partner of Ruyan Consult, a firm of Chartered Accountants and Management Consultants