A Capitec Bank branch in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
A Capitec Bank branch in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

Client-centricity was highlighted at Capitec’s recent AGM as the primary reason for the bank’s rapid growth. There’s no doubt among shareholders, investors, consumers and competitors that Capitec is a major success story. Since 2001 it has transitioned from being a lender to a full transactional bank. Most recently, it has entered business banking with a suite of entry-level products.

Capitec puts the customer at the heart of its product development and marketing, but it is also among a small yet progressive club of businesses that execute customer experience (CX) well, because the customer mandate is openly supported by the bank’s CEO.

Customer experience stalls

Forrester’s “2018 Predictions: A Year of Reckoning” report suggests that CX has “hit a wall”. Among US companies, progress in CX efforts has gradually slowed over the past few years. The market research firm predicts that 30% of companies will experience a further decline in CX quality, which will affect commercial growth.

The truth, according to both the Forrester report and what I have experienced in SA, is that there is a lack of leadership support to tackle the deeply rooted hurdles to customer centricity. Fundamental business changes – providing more personalisation through technological capability, aligning product development with customer insights and creating an authentically customer-centric corporate culture, for example – take time. But these are the only way in which to unlock the true value CX can have on the bottom line. Instead, businesses go after low-hanging fruit, which has little influence over the C-suite.

This is concerning. Yet, the same Forrester report states that despite the widespread stalling of CX, “smart execs will intervene to make CX an internal disruptive force, one that is underpinned by the fundamentals of CX management with customer trust at the core”. It adds, though, that too many executives ignore this evidence of market advantage, putting their organisations at risk in future.  

Less prattle, more practice

In 2014 Gartner predicted that by 2019 89% of companies expected to compete on the basis of customer experiences. However, years later 93% of CX initiatives have failed or not lived up to their hype. Brands have struggled to become customer-centric, even though the threat of disruption still looms large.

Claire Sporton, of SVP CX Innovation at Confirmit, is reported as saying that “very few businesses are able to link the CX programme with financial results, making it much harder to gain support from the C-suite, set the right goals for the business and secure the desired improvements and culture change”.

If CX is to avoid the fate of its cousin, customer relationship management, those advocating for it must draw a stronger connection with the bottom line.

The big take-out

For a client-centric approach to work and have an effect, it needs to be properly executed, supported and communicated. 

What has Capitec done right?

Besides the simplicity of its product offering and its plain-language marketing, Capitec delivers on its promises, says the bank’s communications head, Charl Nel. “That’s not a boastful promise. If you look at bank communication worldwide it’s typically very arrogant … Capitec has overcome this is by simplifying its message to resonate with people’s real experiences in the market.”

The bank focuses on product design and processes so that people’s experiences will eventually exceed their expectations, Nel says, adding that the bank will only talk about this once it is done. 

Capitec also makes an effort to understand younger consumers. Nel says these customers want purpose over a brand relationship in which the company is only concerned about making money. They also want a partnership or mutual feeling of “we’re in this together and we’re doing things in the customer’s interest and not only ours”.

Be quick on your feet

“Adapt or Fail: The Customer Experience Imperative”, a new study by West Monroe Partners and the Customer Experience Professionals Association, finds that 61% of CX executives say their company’s ability to adapt quickly has become a strategic imperative. It says CX is at the heart of business agility – and it will be the force that drives them forward to adapt, or to fail.

Over the years Capitec has experienced changes in the market – as every other business should have. There are new technologies and new platforms, and “we have to cope with it. I think it’s the mindset of being agile and of creating this learning within the organisation and culture to say it’s OK that things are going to change. We change with [them],” says Nel.

Get buy-in from the top

For a client-centric approach to work and have a real effect on a business, it needs to be adopted by all members of the organisation, be well executed and, most importantly, be supported and communicated by top executives. When a CEO highlights customer-centricity as a strategic imperative at a major event such as a company AGM, this sends a message to employees and shareholders that CX should be seen as a true driver of return on investment.

Ahlfeldt is a certified customer experience professional. To listen to the full podcast of her interview with Capitec, click here.

Please sign in or register to comment.