THE USE OF CUSTOMER INFORMATION FOR IMPROVED BUSINESS OPERATION
1.1 Background of the Study
In May, 1999 when the current Democratic government was sworn-in, Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief after the long reign of the military that had practically bastardized the Nigerian nation and alienated her from the rest of the World. Among the expectations were hopes for a better future for Nigerians, better economy, improved living standards, political stability and security of lives and property. The following years however did not witness much improvement in the Nigerian economy. The Federal governments macro economic policies have not yielded the desired results. Even the wage increases have not drastically improved the level of poverty in the economy. The high interest rates charged by the banks have not encouraged borrowing and consequently investment is low. Nigerian banks are facing enormous challenges and the struggle for survival has led several of them into unethical practices. A number of them have collapsed in the process and stricter regulations and capitalization requirements have caused some to become distressed.
Customer information is data held on database about customers by a store or other business, usually including names, contact details, and buying habits. Customer data are the firsthand responses that are obtained from customers through investigation or interrogations. The fear of distress and other matters have continued to shake customers confidence in the banking sector. Nigerian banks must therefore find practical ways of boosting the customers confidence in the banking sector by focusing on customers and designing their services and products to meet customers specific needs.
Incidentally, bank customers of today have increasingly become so enlightened and aware of their importance that ignoring them in the search for competitive advantage can be suicidal for the banks. This is why this topic “The use of Customer Information for improved Business Operation” cannot be more relevant than it is now, coming at a time when emphasis on creating lasting relationships with customers through quality customer information is a Worldwide fact. It is my believe that at the end of this study banks will know what steps to take to create lasting relationship with profitable customers. This invariably will create satisfied customers which will in turn create profitability and sustainable growth in the banking sector.
This study will be very useful particularly to Zenith Bank Plc. which is currently undergoing a restructuring and re-engineering exercise. At the end of this study, the act of cultivating excellent customer service will be very clear among other things. The new focus of the business world is relationship. This study reviews different authors= approach to the issues of developing and maintaining good customer relations. Why would a customer prefer to do business with a particular bank rather than the one down the road? It is because he feels committed to that bank.
This study looks at customer information and the factors that influence the customer’s perception of quality service – what are the expectations of the Nigerian bank customer and how far have the banks gone in trying to meet these expectations? The study also reviews current trends in customer service delivery in the Nigerian banking industry. At the successful completion of this study, it is believed that Nigerian banks will not only know how to gather information about their customers but also learn how to use these information to tailor services to the specific needs of their customers. Better customer service means better satisfied customers and this means profitability for the banks. This will also boost peoples confidence in the banking industry and will positively affect the Nigerian economy as a whole – increased economic activities.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The Nigerian banking industry has witnessed a lot of changes in recent times. There has been rapid increases in the number of commercial banks leading to intense competition among banks. The problem however is that many bank customers are still unsatisfied with the kind of services they get from the banks. It appears that many banks are yet to know enough about how to attract, develop and retain profitable customers. Many banks are still not able to identify the peculiar needs of their customers in order to tailor their services and products to meet those peculiar needs. In an industry where the suppliers offer basically the same kind of services, it is the attitude of the service providers that will differentiate an organization from the other. The attitude of most counter staff is anything but pleasant.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The main objective of this study is to examine the use of customer information for improved business operation and customer relations. The specific objectives include:
i. To understand the basis of quality customer service as perceived by the customer.
ii. To understand the key factors that influence customer perception.
iii. To understand the benefits of TQM and hence implement it properly to enhance customer service delivery
iv. Make recommendations for the development and maintenance of mutually benefitting relationships between the banker and the customers.
1.4 Research Questions
i. What is the basis of quality customer service as perceived by the customer?
ii. What are the key factors that influence customer perception?
iii. What are the benefits of TQM and hence implement it properly to enhance customer service delivery?
iv. What are the recommendations for the development and maintenance of mutually benefitting relationships between the banker and the customers.
1.5 Scope of the study
The original intention of this project was to study the whole banking sector but this was not possible due to cost constraints and logistic problems. Moreover, the inability to get to certain required information tagged confidential as well as the secretive attitude of targeted sources of primary data has made the scope of this study even narrower. The study will therefore be restricted to Zenith Bank Nigeria Plc, Enugu State.
1.6 Limitations of the study
As is usual with research works like this, a lot of problems were encountered during the course of data collection. One major problem was the inability of the respondents to complete the questionnaires on schedule. The bulk of Zenith Bank customers couldn=t appreciate the essence of the questionnaires. Even the very few who did felt they did not have time to spare for exercises like this but eventually the exercise turned out successful and it was quite revealing.
1.7 Significance of the study
The banking industry has faced many major changes in recent times. After the considerable sanitization of the banking industry by regulatory authorities, which led to the liquidation of many ailing banks, there was some form of reassurance that deposits from customers are now safer. The problem is that customers are still unsatisfied with the kind of services they get from the banks.
Freedom levels in the new democratic situation has increased, and customers are empowered by this new order. Customers are more vocal, more critical of shoddy or discourteous bank staff, and many customers can be heard grumbling in the banking halls about undue delays in cashing cheques.
In an industry where the players offer practically the same kind of services, the attitudes of the service providers and the extent to which such services are tailored to meet specific needs of the customers, will make a great deal of difference. Each bank should be able to identify the unique preferences of their customers and target them with those services they need with the right approach that would please, and delight them. The current level of services in the Nigerian banking industry is far from meeting the needs and expectations of the bank customer. It is in the understanding that the customer can make and unmake a business that this study has become very important bearing in mind that attracting and retaining profitable customers is very crucial to the very survival of every bank.
The attitude of most Nigerian bankers particularly the front line employees are far from being professional. It is believed that at the successful completion of this study banks would be able to learn the act of cultivating pro-customer employees. Delighting customers would become a part of such employees.
As earlier stated in the introductory part of this project, this study will be very relevant to Zenith Bank coming at a time where management is re-organizing and repositioning the bank for greater performance and profitability.
This study will help the management in the formulation of pro-customer banking policies bearing in mind the needs, preferences and expectations of their customers. Based on this study, the staff will be better prepared to face the challenges of providing banking service in a new democratic order. The recommendations at the end of this study will help the management to make fundamental changes where necessary and formulate policies that will take Zenith bank back to its former envious position as Nigerians bank of first choice.
In general, the successful completion of this study will help banks to reassess their performance vis-a-vis the needs and expectations of the Nigerian banking public. A better organized and customer-focused banking industry will mean better performance for the sector. A profitable banking industry will stimulate economic growth for the nation leading to increased revenue for the government.
1.8 Organization of the study
The study is divided into five chapters. Chapter one deals with the study’s introduction and gives a background to the study. Chapter two reviews related and relevant literature. The chapter three gives the research methodology while the chapter four gives the study’s analysis and interpretation of data. The study concludes with chapter five which deals on the summary, conclusion and recommendation.