Customer experience is more than just a buzzword in the highly competitive banking and finance arena. Understanding its intrinsic relationship with overall corporate reputation, banking institutions now realise customers value service with a smile.
Leading player Hang Seng Bank however, has prioritised the customer experience from its earliest days of operation.
Founded in 1933, the bank has evolved from a small-scale local foreign exchange bureau into a fully-fledged blue-chip company listed on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong.
"We're a bank that's rooted in Hong Kong," says Esmond Mok, assistant general manager and chief marketing officer, Hang Seng Bank. "Therefore, we understand the financial needs of local people and the business very well."
In the past, staff at banking institutions generally kept a degree of distance in banker-client relationships. Such cool attitudes left many customers dissatisfied. In view of this, Hang Seng focused on providing excellent customer service, encouraging staff to be warm and approachable.
The image of a professional trustworthy partner, readily offering advice to customers is one Hang Seng has long been cultivating. Hang Seng customers including Olympic gold medallist Lee Lai-shan, world-renowned conductor Yip Wing-sie and other famous figures recently appeared in TV commercials for the bank to convey this very concept.
To leave current and potential customers with a lasting positive impression, however, requires more than just advertisements. A company must realise its philosophy through actual service. Employees play a vital role in this realisation process as they deal with the daily practicalities of implementing effective service practices.
"The best way to instil staff with a specific corporate philosophy is by acting it out yourself," Mr Mok notes. "Apart from formal training programmes to ensure employees adopt our ethos, senior management must act as role models and exemplify the characteristics and behaviour we aim to elicit from staff. In addition, team members must genuinely understand and demonstrate the core values of the company by 'living the brand every day'."
Hang Seng's 75th anniversary celebrations next year will be a milestone in the company's development. In the face of decades of intense competition, Hang Seng has always taken a pragmatic yet progressive approach to managing the assets of its clients.
Back in the 1970s, saving money was the primary financial goal of most Hong Kong people. However, the gradual increase in average net worth of Hong Kong citizens has seen a growing need for improved wealth management to maximise customer returns. In providing a plethora of financial instruments to clients the bank truly lives its slogan: "Managing wealth for you, with you". For example, in response to customer demand, Hang Seng launched its e-banking service in 2000. To date, over 700,000 clients have enjoyed the added convenience of Internet banking.
Apart from providing an array of financial services to suit the diverse needs of customers, Hang Seng has also displayed an impressive awareness of social responsibility. Among other things, the bank has a long history of encouraging the local development of sport, including its Hang Seng Table Tennis Development Programme — launched in 1991 — which in 2001 became the Hang Seng Table Tennis Academy. The bank has also offered financial support to help encourage Hong Kong athletes excel at international sporting events.
Environmentally protective measures have also been employed such as the continuous monitoring of bank resources use and the promotion of recycled or environmentally responsible materials. The development of electronic bank statements and other documents are among the measures taken by the bank to reduce its consumption of natural resources.
The response to Hang Seng's environmental efforts is a positive one as the bank's endeavours have been independently recognised. In 2006, the Hang Seng was named Green Enterprise of the Year by the Federation of Hong Kong Industries. It also recently won the award for Environmental Excellence sponsored by the Centre for Corporate Responsibility of the Asian Institute of Management.
The bank's efforts do not end there, however. Such accolades bring to light a mere fraction of Hang Seng's commitment to social responsibility. Mr Mok concludes, "Standing side by side Hong Kong people for more than half a century, Hang Seng Bank will continue to grow with them, serve their needs and remain their lifelong partner."