Monday, 12 September 2016 15:09
"If you don't have a relationship with the customer, you're just a utility, you're just the dumb pipes."
Francisco Gonzalez, executive chairman of BBVA has for a long time proved his ability to predict future trends and keep his company ahead of the curve in terms of technology development and understanding of customer needs.
So it was refreshing to read his comment that "If you don't have a relationship with the customer, you're just a utility, you're just the dumb pipes."
BBVA is no small bank. Between April and June the BBVA Group posted the highest quarterly profit of the last 12 months, with €1.12bn, up 58.4% from the previous quarter. Net attributable profit for the first half of the year stood at €1.83bn, down 33.6% from the same period in 2015, due to the impact of exchange rates and the lack of corporate operations. Stripping out these two factors, profit grew 5.8% y-o-y.
The Group is the largest financial institution in Spain and Mexico and it has leading franchises in South America and the Sunbelt Region of the United States; and it is also the leading shareholder in Garanti, the innovative Turkish bank. Its diversified business is focused on high-growth markets and it relies on technology as a key sustainable competitive advantage. In fact Francisco Gonzalez famously predicted at the Mobile World Congress a few years ago that "BBVA will be a software company in the future".
Corporate responsibility is at the core of its business model. BBVA fosters financial education and inclusion, and supports scientific research and culture. It has Eue746bn in total assets.
Added to this, BBVA’s new headquarters in Madrid has been built according to the strictest sustainability criteria to ensure minimal environmental impact. Energy consumption rates have been cut by 30%. Potable water consumption has been also cut by half and 100% of waste is recycled.
It has simplified its management structure which according to Cardlos Torres Vila, the CEO will make them "more agile and efficient”.
It has blogs on its website about deconstructing millennials, how fintech can help financial inclusion and on why blockchain is an ally for financial services.
All this means that when its forward thinking chairman makes a comment, people tend to take notice.
So what does "have a relationship with the customer" really mean?
In far too many instances, in most markets and sectors, it seems to equate to sales, marketing and promotions.
It is interpreted as "how can we get more from the customer, how can we get them to spend more, cross sell to them, interest them in more complex product?"
In terms of loyalty, we offer our customers points but sometimes the whole issue of customer relationships is little more than lip service, especially in financial services.
The points awarded offer impossibly low returns, customer communications are blatant sales tools, the data is sold onto third parties, (because this is what the company said they were going to do in the T&Cs and the customer didn't uncheck the box). There is often a failure to deliver value, benefits or engagement.
Yet as customers, we really want to be understood; we want to do business with companies we respect and who are doing the right thing, and we value interaction. But it has to be managed with care.
We know when we are being used, patronised and exploited. Especially annoying is to be asked for feedback and then to receive no response to our comments.
A relationship is a two way street and it requires constant work. No one said customer loyalty was easy.
But take a look at the companies who are out-performing their competitors - like BBVA - and the difference stands out a mile.