Is Customer Relationship Marketing Strategy Justifiable?
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In recent years retail banking services have universally adopted relationship marketing / customer relationship marketing strategy as their strategic priority; is this justified in the light of experience and current financial service market place.
Chapter 1: Introduction
Retail Banking is an evergreen business sector and the potential for innovation is limitless. The increased awareness of the bankers that the customers are the back bone of any business and the stiff competition in the banking sector through the increased penetration and expansion of finance and non-finance organizations venturing into this areas of banking has created an awareness that retaining and serving the existing customer is more critical than searching for potential new customers. This report analyses the extent to which the retail-banking sector is deploying the potential of customer relationship marketing strategy as a strategic priority to develop their business and serve the customers. The report focuses on the fact whether the extensive use of Customer Relationship Marketing strategy in the retail banking sector business is justifiable or not.
1.2: Aim and Objectives
The aim of this report is to analyse whether the increased use of Customer Relationship Marketing strategy by the retails banking sector and financial institutions as a core strategy is justifiable or not. This is achieved through the following objectives.
- To analyse the growth of retail banking sector and the criticality of information in the retail-banking sector and the financials institutions in general.
- To analyse the effects of using Customer Relationship Marketing strategy and the advantages of Customer Relationship Marketing in mining information in providing a second to none customer service by the banks.
1.3: Background for the study
The increased use of Internet banking and numerous tools for customer service by the banks in the UK is the primary reason for the conception of this report. Alongside, the fact that accurate information about the target customers in any business market is the critical factor for the success of an organization is that business sector. Apparently, banking sector is one of the numerous sectors that faces the public on a day-to-day basis and almost every individual in the society is linked with a bank in one form or another which gives the bank an increasing potential to develop their business and investment through identifying potential customers whilst retaining the existing customers.
The research is primarily supported through the use of secondary data like journals, annual reports, textbooks and white papers. The information provided by the journals about the market and the use of Customer Relationship Marketing strategy by banks is concrete and the need for funding to conduct market research either through questionnaire or other methods of primary data collection is the reason for choosing the secondary data source. It is worth mentioning that the information contained in the journals and documents are second to none since the academic journals used in their report are from highly reputed institutions, which publishes reports and papers that are world renowned and valued by numerous academicians.
1.5: Scope of the research
The research is primarily focused on the banks in the retails banking sector in the UK. The focus group is the market for the banks in the UK and the different needs of the general public like loans, mortgages, deposits etc that the banks try to mine through the Customer Relationship Marketing strategy.
1.6: Chapter Overview
Chapter 1: Introduction
This is the current chapter that introduces the report objectives to the reader.
Chapter 2: Customer Relationship Marketing in the UK
This chapter presents an analysis of the Customer Relationship Marketing strategy and concepts in the business focusing on the UK business sector in general. The advantages of Customer Relationship Marketing strategy in achieving greater customer service are discussed. This is followed by a brief analysis of the use of Customer Relationship Marketing by the banks in the UK.
Chapter 3: Retail Banking sector in the UK
In this chapter the growth of retail banking and the importance of information in the Banking sector are analysed. This is followed by an analysis of the increasing competition and the bank’s use of information about customers to enhance customer service and identity new customers in the market. The concept of Customer Relationship Marketing initially presented to the reader in the previous chapter on a general perspective is analysed in light of the retail banking and the use of Customer Relationship Marketing as a core strategy by the banks in UK. The analysis is supported with examples of specific organizations in relevant sections of the chapter.
Chapter 4: Conclusion and recommendation
In this chapter, the results achieved so far are discussed against the objectives and then a conclusion is derived from this discussion. Furthermore, a few constructive recommendations for further research and analysis in this topic are provided to the reader.
Chapter 2: Customer Relationship Marketing in the UK
Customer Relationship Marketing is increasingly used by many organizations in the UK. The fact that the customer is the central element of a business is the major reason for the increased use of Customer Relationship Marketing strategy by organizations in order to serve their customers efficiently and effectively. The first section provides a general overview of the Customer Relationship Marketing concept to the reader.
1.2: What is Customer Relationship Marketing?
Frances Brassington and Stephen Pettitt (2003) speak about relationship marketing as “A form of marketing that puts particular emphasis on building a longer-term more intimate bond between an organization and its individual customers”. This is mainly due to the never-ending battle of retaining the existing customers and to identify new customers for leveraging revenue and gaining competitive advantage. In today’s highly competitive environment the businesses are increasingly using new technologies and infrastructure to create the long-term relationship identified by Frances Brassington and Stephen Pettitt (2003). This form of relationship marketing is much more refined as Customer Relationship Marketing which is the method of identifying and satisfying the customer needs through efficient use of the resources and the customer information maintained by the company in order to establish a strong relationship with the customer and thereby achieving trust among the customers. From the above definition it is apparent that the concept of Customer Relationship Marketing treats the customer as the primary element for the business and directs all its resources both material and human resource to serve the customer thus gaining competitive advantage in the business. The reason for the increased customer focus in the business is due to the simple fact that a customer is the end user of the product developed by the company and above all the source of revenue for the company, which can be generated only through effective sales and service. This is also intensified further due to the increased competition and the availability of a wide range of products to choose for the customer.
The primary focus of Customer Relationship Marketing is on the customer information that the company holds which is analysed for in the light of the company’s goals, vision and mission in order to decide on how efficiently to serve the target customer by the company. This is vital for the reason that the accurate information about the target customer segment is the primary element for the success in the company’s venture in the business either new or existing.
1.3: Customer Service
Since the concept of Customer Relationship Marketing embraces customer service, a brief overview of customer service is presented in this section. Philip Kotler (1988) says that the customer forms the backbone of any business. Alongside, it is also well known that customer service is not only for selling the product but the after sales service is what that actually counts in the service of the customers. The effective customer service as identified by Philip Kotler (1988) is mainly thorough improving timeliness in sales support and also by keeping the promise that was made to the customer at the time of sales.
Alongside the critical associated with the servicing is costs associated with the services provided by the company to meets its customer needs and requirements. Apparently, a company cannot spend all of its revenue to customer service. Thus the need to maintain the balance between the efficient service and costs associated with the services provided is vital for the company’s success.
Frances Brassington and Stephen Pettitt (2003) have identified the following as the three critical factors to be considered while designing the customer service strategy.
The needs of the customer are the primary element for a company to promote its products to the customer in that target market. The need of the customer is also the primary factor customer to conduct search for the products that meets his/her needs.
The situation of the customer is another critical factor while designing a product, which is essential to identify the customer’s affordability and his/her perception of the production the market. The situation is not only to analyse the customer situation but also to design the effective pricing strategy to meet the customer demands along with the plans to diversify the product range in order to reach more than one target segment of the market based on the quality and price of the products.
Any special requirements for customers
Special requirements for the customer vary with the kind of product being sold and the need of the customer with that product. In the banking sector for example, a customer applying for a personal loan may like the monthly payments to be charged from his account on a specific date of every month. This level of customisation apparently allows the bank to serve the customer more effectively as well as retain the customer by providing him/her with the desired amount of loan in this instance. The potential of information and knowledge about the customers and the requirements is the key for customizing the service.
The three factors mentioned above can be identified only through efficient market research and knowledge of the customer and the target market. This is mainly through treating the information as a vital element for the business. The concept of Customer Relationship Marketing envisages the customer requirements and potential in new target markets through the efficient analysis of the information held by the company about its customer and markets. Alongside, the cost issues associated with the customer service is also drastically reduced with the Customer Relationship Marketing strategy because of the fact that the company initially identifies the right customer for its business and products through the Customer Relationship Marketing concept and thus the customer identified can be served effectively in the first instance itself such that the costs associated with the after sales service that arises mainly due to defects and problems faced by the customer due to purchasing the wrong item from the market is reduced drastically.
1.4: Market Information and its role in Business
In today’s competitive environment market information is critical for the successful promotion of a company’s product. This includes the banking sector as well where the target market is the personal bankers and individuals with a variety of needs. A company in order to maintain effective Customer Relationship Marketing strategy must gain information about its customers, their level of spending and other aspects of their purchase that will benefit the company by customizing the products much more to meet the needs of the customer. The customer information is collected through various methods or research and also through the use of Information Technology to acquire customer information. The customer information can be effectively gained while conducting the sales and receiving payments for the products sold. The use of Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) in the retail sector for processing payments as well as to communicate the company’s new products to the customer is one such are to gain information about the market and the customer spending levels in the target market.
Identifying the right customer is primarily through effective market research and identifying the potential markets for the company’s products. A bank for example in order to identify its customers must initially research on where to sell its products and then identify its customers through the information gained in the market research. The fact that Customer Relationship Marketing is mainly to promote the products of an organization to its target customers by identifying the customer need and relating it to its products and services makes Customer Relationship Marketing an essential element for a successful business. The Customer Relationship Marketing in the banking perspective is analysed in detail in the next chapter.
1.5: Why Customer Relationship Marketing?
From the above discussions we find that the concept of Customer Relationship Marketing is very beneficial for a company’s prosperity and also fact that the business development in new areas is possible through efficient Customer Relationship Marketing in the target markets. But the question why do we need Customer Relationship Marketing is addressed in this section briefly.
The increase in the competition in the UK business markets in the primary reason for the growth of Customer Relationship Marketing. The competition in the market is nearing the point of saturation due to the increase in number of competitors and the increasing awareness among the consumers about products and services. Apparently, a new means of identifying the potential customer in the market and conducting business is critical in the day-to-day business through customisation and quality or service. The financial services sector in the UK alone has seen a tremendous increase in competition with the expansion of non-financial organizations like retail store chains and other business organizations venturing into banking services through own brand credit cards, personal loans, insurance, etc. The competition in the market can be faced only through the effective employment of the information held by the competitors.
1.5.2: Innovation and Growth in Technology
Through continuous innovation, the competitors in the UK business markets have invaded its customers through new products and services. The innovation level has also reached a level of saturation that the competitors are now depending on technology to leverage more potential in gaining the customer information so as to present their products in a more customised manner. Alongside, the growth in technology and especially information technology and its expansion in numerous areas of business has also created the opportunity for the organizations in the increasingly competitive environment to leverage the potential of information to identify new business markets and hence reach new customers. The result of the strive for the competitors to deploy the information more effectively in order to create a long term relationship with the customers has resulted in the conception of the Customer Relationship Marketing concept.
1.5.3: Internet and the competition from e-business
The growth of Internet and online shopping portals were the first in the business to harness the potential of customer information to reach new markets and expand business. The Internet has broken the traditional barriers of shopping and business itself thus revolutionizing the entire concept of sales and marketing. A statistical Review conducted by Keynote says that the customers purchasing online have increased tremendously since 2001 and the growth is unlimited. The reason for the tremendous growth is that the organizations selling online acquire critical information about the customer’s likes and dislikes and send them with regular updates of their products, which suits their needs. The growth of Amazon especially through promoting their products by presenting the customer with a short list of related products and continuous e mail updates is the classical example for the success of the deployment of customer information in the current business market that is highly competitive with target customers having a volatile mindset in deciding to purchase a product or service from a given organizations.
In the banking and financial services sector in the UK, the growth of internet banking and the increase in customers applying online for financial services like insurance, loans, etc., has created a need for the bankers in the UK to practise Customer Relationship Marketing in order to identify the needs of the customer as well as attract new customers. In the next chapter this is dealt with in more detail with respect to the retail banking and the financial services market as a whole.
1.6: Product customisation:
The increase in competition in business has forced the competitors in the UK business markets to present more and more customised products to meet their customer needs in order to retain the existing customer as well as identify potential new customers. The customisation of a product will be successful only through the efficient collection and deployment of the customer information and market information captured by the company. Again the cost issues associated with the customisation and the success of the customized product need the vital information about the customer needs and target market.
In banking sector for example a customized loan offer or any other financial service offer is introduced only after extensive research in the market in order to successfully meet the customer needs in the target market.
From the above discussions in this chapter it is evident that for achieving success and gaining competitive advantage in a business sector, the competitors are increasingly using the potential of customer information and adopting Customer Relationship Marketing strategy to reach potential customers with their products as well as to retain their existing customers. Apart from the competition, the information gained also helps the organization to customize its products and services to its target customers in order to successfully promote the new products and services and effectively allocate its investments for service and production. In the next chapter the Customer Relationship Marketing concept in the light of banking and financial sector is analysed in order to establish whether or not the increasing use Customer Relationship Marketing strategy by the retail banks as a core strategy is justifiable.
Chapter 3: Retail Banking sector in the UK
The retail banking in the UK has seen tremendous growth in the past few decades. From only a handful of competitors in the 1950s, the banking sector in the UK now consists of many big players like Barclays, HSBC and numerous other banks that are operating at national and international markets. In the next section an overview of the growth in the banking sector especially the increase in the potential and the diversity of products are presented to the reader.
3.1: The growth of retail banking
The banking sector in the UK has a century old tradition for serving its customers and stability in the business surviving through the world wars. From the late years of the twentieth century, the banking sector has seen tremendous growth in the UK. The traditional service of lending and deposits have changed into customised services and grown into many new areas of finance especially in the insurance sector as well as expanded the scope of their existing business through continuous customisation and innovation in their products and services offered. This is apparently due to the increased competition and the growing potential of the UK markets for credit cards and personal loans. The tremendous growth of the UK retail-banking sector is evident from its value in the whole European commercial banking market. The UK banking sector alone accounts for 23.9 % of the European commercial banking sector (Data monitor industry analysis on commercial banking sector of UK, 2003), which proves that the UK banking sector is growing tremendously. The report further says that the competition in the banking retail-banking sector is intense and the leading companies in the sector are Barclays Plc and HSBC Holdings Plc. A few examples of the Customer Relationship Marketing strategies and the timely execution of the business strategy by these companies are discussed in later sections.
The keynote (2003) market report on personal banking says, “Personal banking is no longer a market exclusively occupied by banks”. This is obviously because of the entry of new competitors from other segments of the financial markets like the insurance companies venturing into the credit cards and personal loans market. Apart from the competition from other financial organizations there is potential growth in the banking industry with the entry of many retailers entering into the banking sector through insurance and other personalised services. This increase in the market potential and the competition in the market proves the tremendous growth of the banking sector in the UK and the penetration of other business sectors into the banking sector which makes it very clear that the traditional process of banking in the counters is long gone and the current banking industry is invaded by competitors from various segments of business other than the actual banks themselves.
The process of banking itself has changed tremendously from the trivial paper based banking that was common in the 1970s and the 1980s into electronic banking system with the advent of plastic payment options through debit cards and credit cards and the Automated Teller Machines that can vend cash to the account holders like any other trivial vending machine in the high street. These areas along with the tremendous growth of technology has forced the traditional banks to meet the competition through the efficient use of Information Technology and other innovations in communications like the satellite communications, broadband, etc for the enhanced service to its customers in order to retain the existing customers as well as attract new customers to the banks.
The growth in the banking process has primarily concentrated in enhancing the services offered to the customers rather than just treating the customers on the basis of their request on a case-by-case basis, which was the traditional way of banking system in the UK. Alongside, it is worth mentioning, that the innovation has primarily focused on easing the process of banking itself though introducing different channels of payments and also the plastic payment option on the internet and at retail stores which has increased security in transactions as well as prevents the customer from the risk of carrying large amounts of cash with them for shopping which was the case a few decades ago.
From the above arguments, it is clear that the retail-banking sector has seen tremendous growth in the past decade and still growing with the increase in the number of competitors and the diversity of the competing organizations. In the next section, a brief analysis of the competition in the banking industry is presented to the reader before proceeding to the analysis of information and its critical nature in the banking sector.
3.2: competition and competitors in the retail-banking sector
The retail-banking sector of the UK in the twenty-first century comprises of not only the banks but also competition from other financial organizations and non-financial organizations. The increase in the credit rich market of the UK citizens as well the increased borrowing of the customers has created vast potential for personal finance which is the primary reason for the venture of other organizations in to retail banking.
The examples of such competition in the market include the personal finance and loans introduced by TESCO Plc and Asda Plc (A Wal Mart group of company) who are retail superstore chains by business. Alongside, the venture of insurance firms such as Norwich Union are increasingly competing with the high street bankers in the personal loans, savings and other financial services.
Apart from the competition on the high street, the competition from the Internet bankers is another potential hurdle for the high street bankers. The increase in the Internet users and the potential of online banking systems eliminating the paper-base trivial banking service eventually increasing the speed of the processing as well as providing customised service to the customers is a major competition to the high-street bankers. Apparently, the web presence and online banking facilities provided by the high street bankers may be an answer to the competition but still the potential of the online customers and the ability to retain a customer over the internet banks is very difficult.
3.3: The potential of information and the Customer Relationship Marketing strategy
From the arguments in the above sections we see that the banking sector is tremendously growing and the potential of the financial services offered is immense along with competition that is increasing in geometric progression. Apparently, the competitors in the retail-banking sector rely on the potential of information in order to compete in the market.
From the discussions in chapter 2 it is clear that the accurate information about the target market and the customers is essential for a successful venture in the business. The banking sector with the increasing competition relies heavily on the potential of information to customize its products and services to reach new customers as well as retain the existing customers.
The increased use of information to mine the consumer requirements is increasing the banking sector. A classical example is the announcement low rate personal loan offer by HSBC bank Plc, in the UK. The bank offered loans at the lowest possible interest rate of a high street bank during the New Year season, which is when a lot of people spend money on purchasing presents and extensive shopping. The strategy of the bank to keep the low rate offer open only to existing customers enabled the bank to attract new customers who were primarily interested in the low interest rate personal loans.
Another example is that of Barclays Bank Plc which encourages its customers to choose online and telephone banking in order to speed up the processing time as well improve the service to the customers. The bank through encouraging its customers for telephone banking not only leverages a market share in the electronic banking sector but also effectively reduces the costs involved with the customer service since the bank need not employ a lot of people at the high street branches to serve its customers as well as reduce the expenditure on resources like stationeries etc.
It is worth mentioning that both the afore mentioned banks have Internet banking facility and provide services for online bill payments as well as performing several transactions for the customers in a very secured and safe manner. A notable feature of the Barclays telephone banking system with the pass code is that the automated telephone banking system enables the customer to perform the transactions as well pay bills through the phone without even waiting to be served by a representative over the phone. This eventually reduces the costs associated with the service since the personnel employed by the bank is still lesser. Alongside, the rival HSBC has outsourced its call centres to India and has a vast human resource under its command to serve the customers in the UK. The bank serves it customers over the phone quickly and efficiently and the outsourcing of the call centre to India has saved the company a huge part of their costs since the labour costs is less in India when compared to UK.
The above two examples prove that the high street banks in the UK are increasingly using the Customer Relationship Marketing strategy not only to introduce new products but also to improve customer service. The increased use of Internet banking and the electronic services of the banks in the high street is a very good example for this argument.
Apart from the afore mentioned facts the customers are served by the retail banks on other channels like the local branch banking, web transactions and customer service centres that provide efficient customer service.
3.4: Diverse Range of products
The concept of customisation and diversity in the products are only successful when they are implemented targeting on the right segment of customers. The banks both on the high street and over the Internet offer numerous customized products for attracting the customers as well as improving the customer service in order to retain the existing customers. The introduction of loans for more personalised reasons like car loans, housing loans, etc on top of the personal loans, mortgage services and other financial services provided by the banks both over the internet and at the high streets justifies the arguments that the banks are increasingly customizing and diversifying their products in order to reach new customers as well as server the existing customers.
This is achieved only through the efficient use of the customer information gathered by the Customer Relationship Marketing strategy and associated support systems by the competing banks (both traditional and new entrants).
Alongside, the banking services provided by the retailers like TESCO, is primarily based on the information they gathered and accumulated over the years of service in the retail industry and identify the potential for the right kind of financial service to the attract its customers to the financial services as well. The fact that the idea of branding and the brand loyalty of the UK customers is the major factor for the venture of these organizations into personal finance. TESCO Plc is ranked number one among the retail superstore chains in the UK thus establishing itself as a retail brand among its customers. This brand image of TESCO supported by the information of its customer and target markets has given the organization the necessary information to venture into the financial services sector thus becoming a potential competitor to the traditional high street banks in the UK.
The above arguments make it clear that the Customer Relationship Marketing strategy is widely deployed by the competitors in the retail-banking sector. Alongside, it is also evident that the increased level of customisation and customer service is achieved though the efficient use of the information gathered and deployed by the Customer Relationship Marketing strategy. In the next chapter, the justification whether of not to have Customer Relationship Marketing strategy as a core strategy in the banks is discussed followed by the conclusion.
Chapter 4:Conclusion and Recommendation
The discussions conducted so far in this report is analysed against the objective of the report in order to create a profound understanding among the readers. The objectives of the report are
Objective1: To analyse the growth of retail banking sector and the criticality of information in the retail-banking sector and the financials institutions in general.
From the analysis in the chapter 1 on Customer Relationship Marketing it is evident that the companies in the UK business sectors are increasingly involving in diversification and customisation of their products and services in order to reach target customers and new markets. This is primarily due to the relationship marketing technique adopted by the companies where the customer is treated as a primary element for business and the information about the customer is treated as vital asset for the company. The companies increasingly deploy the Customer Relationship Marketing strategy to achieve competitive advantage. This is obviously through the effective use of information gathered by the companies to develop its business and meet the competition through effective Customer Relationship Marketing strategy.
Objective 2: To analyse the effects of using Customer Relationship Marketing strategy and the advantages of Customer Relationship Marketing in mining information in providing a second to none customer service by the banks.
The effects of using the Customer Relationship Marketing strategy by the banks has increased the competition in the retail banking sector with participants from various sectors of business other than the traditional banks. The ability to identify the customer needs through research and with the help of an effective Customer Relationship Marketing strategy the competitors provide customised and second to none customer service to the customers. This is primarily to retain the existing customers as well as attract new customers. Alongside, the examples of the Barclays and HSBC proves that the Customer Relationship Marketing strategy is vital for the business in the retail banking sector and the fact that the customer information and effective market research leverages the organizations to implement an efficient Customer Relationship Marketing strategy to meet the customer needs and provide effective customer service.
From the discussions of the objectives it is evident that the Customer Relationship Marketing strategy is a vital element for achieving competitive advantage in the retail-banking sector. Alongside, with the increase in the competition and the threat from the new entrants in to the retail banking industry, the need to retain the existing customer through effective customer service as well as attract potential customers is vital for surviving in the business. Thus the continued use of the Customer Relationship Marketing strategy by the retail banking organizations as a core strategy for leveraging competitive advantage is inevitable. Apparently, the Customer Relationship Marketing strategy plays a vital role in the business development as well as expands to new markets, which makes it essential to have the Customer Relationship Marketing strategy as a core strategy in the retail-banking sector.
The retail bankers in today’s UK market are extensively using the information technology products that are sold specifically for the purpose of achieving Customer Relationship Marketing in the business. Apparently, the companies misunderstand the fact that the software and hardware infrastructure so purchased does the process on its own without any strategy designed and deployed by the company. This eventually results in poor performance of the products installed and hence the Customer Relationship Marketing strategy will not be efficient. The surge in the banking sector during the IT barrier period (fall of dot com companies in the late 1990s) is a classical example for this argument. Furthermore, the data monitor analysis of the banking sector of the UK (2003) reveals that the potential for loans and advances in the UK is immense and the revenue generated accounts for 54.2% of the banking sector total revenue.
Apparently, the above statistics is viable only through efficient Customer Relationship Marketing that the retail bankers are deploying in the present. Thus it is recommended that the Customer Relationship Marketing strategy must not only be considered as a core business strategy but also to focus on the critical nature of information and data mining in order to develop the business in new areas of finance as well as gain market share in the existing business segments.
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