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Bank Customer Service Critical to Gaining a Distinct Competitive Advantage


Riyad Bank, Saudi Arabia, identified customer service as critical to gaining a distinct competitive advantage in Saudi Arabia. The bank embarked on an ambitious, company-wide programme to improve the level and quality of customer care delivery, both internally and in customer-facing interactions. A central aim of the initiative was to improve the image of the bank in the eyes of the customers and to ensure that customers felt valued and were treated with respect in all their dealings with the bank.


Dr.Hajje and his team worked with the Head of Customer Business, the Head of Customer Service and the Head of Training to examine the organization structure and reporting lines. All the customer contact points and potential overlaps regarding client interaction were identified. As part of the fact-finding process, the group also visited the central branch and two newly opened sub-branches where discussions were held with the respective managers regarding the level of service being provided to their customers, their acquisition plans and the customer feedback on the new outlets.

Following this preliminary research, Dr.Hajje and his team designed a customized Coaching/Training Programme to incorporate a series of inter-related processes from probing questions, group discussions, slide presentations and individual exercises. The aim was to stimulate thinking around the everyday customer experiences so that participants could gain a better understanding of service from the customer's viewpoint. Participants were encouraged to find possible solutions both within themselves and within the bank as a whole. The key areas covered were:

Who they believe their customers are - understanding the internal and external customer.

What value the customers are to the business - creating the business case for customer service.

How they believe they treat their customers - raising self-awareness.

How they could improve the level of service being provided - moving from reactive to proactive customer service.

The rationale for this approach was to close the gap between the corporate culture in Riyad Bank regarding the value of the customer and the cultural mindset of the clients in terms of their understanding of and trust in the banking system.


A total of 400 + participants attended over the five day programme. The first two days were attended by senior management, including the CEO and Board of Management, while the remaining days were attended by customer front-line staff, including supervisors, client advisers and call centre-staff.

While the workshop format was the same across all twenty workshops, the learning outcomes and action plans varied due to the different levels of responsibility and interaction with customers. The pace was fast and focused while maintaining a balance between the key topics of the customer experience and the customer's value to the organization. Global statistics on the cost of losing a customer were linked to proposed policies and procedures the bank could develop to acquire, service and retain customers. Participants were coached on developing behaviours to help regain unhappy customers' trust and loyalty. Recommendations were made across a number of key areas, which participants could readily implement on return to the office. Challenges such as existing queuing systems were examined and delegates suggested potential solutions.

In the workshops, delegates examined the impact of recent customer initiatives such as the Mystery Shopper, Suggestion Boxes, Staff Dress Codes and Telephone Standards on staff, customers and the business as a whole. At the end of the day, all participants completed their Action Plan, committing to new work practices which they were to review with colleagues who had also attended. The Head of Customer Service is to revisit these plans with all attendees to ensure agreed changes in customer service are implemented.

Delegates collectively agreed to a revised set of customer service objectives, namely to:

• Provide a high quality service.

• Develop long term relationships with customers.

• Treat the customer with respect.

• Identify and understand customer needs and develop products and services to meet these needs.

• Improve efficiency and delivery.

• Make the customer feel valued and comfortable doing business with the bank.

• Provide accurate and timely information.

These objectives are being met through the implementation of the comprehensive action plan designed by Dr.Hajje and his team which is being managed by the bank’s Customer Service Manager. The key action steps relate to the development and introduction of a formal Customer Service Policy and Charter, Customer Service Standards, inclusion of Customer Service as part of the bank internal Audit function, Customer Service training as part of an induction programme and refresher courses to be conducted in-house, and the development of the Internal Customer Network.

The standard and quality of the customer service strategy will be measured through results driven measurement processes to monitor the effectiveness of implementation, the impact on customer acquisition and retention and the subsequent and ultimate effect on the customer satisfaction.

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