Suren Babajanyan: Without a genuine approach to service, branding becomes a sideshow

07.05.2024 | 23:20 Home / News / Articles /
The public insight into the activities of banks is offered through their senior leadership – board chairmen, executive directors, customer service officers, whereas an important part of the team remains in the shade. As part of its special project, will talk to the heads of important, yet behind-the-scenes, divisions of banks, whose daily efforts produce tangible results in the banking sector.

In this article, Suren Babajanyan, Head of Sales and Business Development Department of AraratBank, gave an overview of the impact of branding and marketing practices on the development of the financial institution, the work of the call center, the quality of service and other important issues.

Teaching experience and banking

I took up the position of Head of Sales and Business Development Department right after the rebranding of AraratBank commenced. The Department comprises the Call Center, the Product Development and Analysis Division, the Sales Division and the CRM Division – in simple language, Customer Relationship Management Division. The divisions are closely interlinked and the work of one division directly affects the work of the others. In other words, any fault occurring in one of the divisions will inevitably be reflected in the others, ensuring a contagion effect.

Suren Babajanyan

Prior to working in the banking system, I had a teaching and research position at Armenian State University of Economics. The teaching experience really helps me in my current job in terms of good interpersonal communication. It provided a background and skills required to manage an audience of over 60 people. When you speak before mature people of different dispositions and personalities, you should be able to manage the audience, make yourself heard without getting boring. The ability to listen is crucial here: constantly talking and advising people, without offering them an opportunity to speak is but an invitation to trouble. These years of experience gave me a better understanding of how to optimize customer communication as well as ensure a better interaction with team members.

Role of branding and marketing in the banking industry

In the banking system, branding and marketing become all the more necessary in a competitive environment. The Armenian market is small, with 18 participants acting amid intense competition. Here, branding and marketing can make a huge difference. It is against this background that visual tools, image-building messages and approaches are employed to make the bank distinguished. External visuals and image-building information are the first emotions communicated to the customer on a subconscious level before he enters the bank. Here, it’s crucial to be able to bolster the initial emotion and confirm the brand-associated information through appropriate service, positive attitude, and professionalism. The level of service provided to the person must comply with the branding content to avoid any dissonance.

We have done a great job in this area, but we still have a long way to go, especially in view of the current digitalization environment, when banks are trying to outdo each other with service speed and digitalization processes. While a decade ago we were enmeshed in slow bureaucratic processes, today we strive to guarantee faster and more flexible service solutions within a short time limit. We still have work to do in this regard.

Suren Babajanyan

The ultimate goal of marketing and branding is to ensure profit. In other words, all actions should indirectly or directly serve to grow profit. The marketing and branding tools, although in certain respects different for various industries, e.g. for restaurant business and banking, are built on similar principle. It’s hard to single out a peculiar feature of the financial sector since the market is small, and in order to stay afloat, you should constantly come up with new marketing campaigns and branding solutions, otherwise you drop out of the game.

Overshadowing visual solutions by indifference  

Managing customer feedback, apart from patience, requires empathy and ability to listen to the customer. Once the customer feels heard and carefully addressed, he stands by your side, realizing that every effort is being made to solve his issues. But if the customer witnesses an indifferent attitude and realizes he’s just another customer to be quickly serviced and sent away, he feels anxious and dissatisfied.

Thus, on the one hand, we need to enhance the speed of service, considering the high number of customers, but on the other hand, we have to ensure that each customer feels special and is made aware that the Bank will spare no effort or resource to solve his problem. A lack of empathy and sincere attitude of the Bank towards its customer may overshadow the full branding package and visual solutions. In other words, empathy, ability to listen and persistence in solving problems are essential.

When a staff member or a customer realizes that he/she has made a mistake and acknowledges it, all the while making efforts to avoid repeating mistakes, this gives room for growth for the Bank and sends the right message to team members. Self-justification and reluctance to admit mistakes will not get us anywhere.

Up to 1500 incoming calls daily

Our call center is staffed by a large team, some with up to 12 years of experience of working in the division. We have a 3-shift system, with two daytime and one nighttime shift. The day shift takes on the main workload. There are up to 1500 incoming calls daily, which is quite a challenging number. The average call takes 5-7 minutes, but can last up to 20 minutes. Currently, we are able to handle customer calls without leaving any call unanswered thanks to the technical solution for effective management of incoming calls and callbacks.

Recently, the Call Center and CRM teams have been joined by new members from Artsakh, who have basic knowledge, are trained and able to contribute to effective work.

Suren Babajanyan

Plenty of stressful situations occur. Customers may be friendly or easily annoyed, requiring the staff to show greater professionalism and more patience. When talking over the phone, with no face-to-face contact with the responder, negative emotions are more easily transmitted when you don’t see the person on the other end. As customers, people tend to believe that the Call Center works only for them and should be able to respond to their needs at a moment’s notice.  

We monitor and listen to incoming calls on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, and after studying the number of unanswered or problematic calls, provide custom training programs for our employees.

Holding inner peace at work and beyond

I believe that holding your inner peace is of crucial importance when dealing with stressful situations at work. Outside of working hours, I try not to think of the work and avoid disturbing my colleagues with work-related issues, unless the problem requires an urgent solution. I do my best to follow the rule that I have made for myself and let my mind rest so that I'm more productive the next working day. It's not easy, but when you leave work on Fridays, you should be able to relieve any work-related worries, without bringing work issues home.

A great source of motivation for me is communicating with people, my family and taking early-morning walks in Yerevan when the city’s still quiet. It really helps to clear my mind.

Arpi Jilavyan

Photos by Emin Aristakesyan

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