A view on Customer Centricity

Editorial Board Member, Dirk van Strijthem, CEO, KBC Commercial Finance, describes the customer centricity desired approach and how to create more added value in an area of digital transformation.

The current interest climate puts margins under pressure and the digital transformation is luring around the corner but at the same time it is not tangible in our daily operations.  Yet, all this is creating a certain anxiousness and in times of uncertainty we fall back on our basic business reflexes. Today, installing a customer centric approach is on the agenda of most companies active in our industry as it fully fits within a well-known commercial approach.

However, what is our real ambition level in this respect? Do we want to increase our Net Promoter Scores? Do we want to increase our clients’ stickiness? To put it differently, do we want to install a client centric behaviour for our internal purposes or are we really convinced that the customer has taken over control? In such case we should now start building the customer experience around the clients’ needs.

In order to better understand the needs of our clients we send out surveys, organise interactive sessions and set KPI’s, as measuring is knowing.

All these measures are hardly new and very often we stumble into the inside-out product perspective pitfall. The true nature of these actions is not to better understand the needs of our client, it is to better understand why not more clients are using our product range, or even worse, they serve as an excuse.

However, customers did take over control and I deem it of utmost importance to accept this paradigm shift. It will allow us to start focussing on the outside-in view. If we put the emphasis on how clients experience our services instead on product acceptance we can make a first step towards the customer centric desired approach. Moreover, we interact with buyers (debtors) mainly for internal, risk driven, purposes but is it really impossible to provide an added value to these potential clients?

Unlike many other industries, we do not have to worry about growing the pie, we are hardly scratching the icing on the cake. True, we are no longer considered as a lender of last resort solution but we still heavily depend on the commercial policies, capacity and focus of the distribution networks of the banks (also to the advantage of independent players).

As we have that untapped potential we can concentrate our efforts on value creation. Let us forget about that unique value proposition and focus instead on onboarding new clients, accommodating unserved clients’ needs.  I truly believe that we should start to think in terms of an eco-system strategy, it is more likely that we succeed in building the desired client journey if we join forces, if we start co-creating these journeys.

Flexibility, convenience, speed are the adjectives popping to our mind when describing the success of FinTechs.  I dare to argue that successful Fintechs are great in leveraging their digital value as they succeed in combining digital assets. What prevents us to build on our strengths, we have the experience, we understand the end-to-end process. Just as banks start to co-create, the trade and receivable finance industry should embrace the new era in which eco-system platforms and collaborative actions become the new norm.

Hence, let us continue with the outside-in perspective with the ambition to put the prospect (why aren’t you a client yet?) at the centre of our attention. Once we have defined the desired customer journey it is now time to start thinking cross-border and cross companies, we still have the best cards to win this game and even more if we can start combining our strengths, i.e. our future digital assets.