"The purpose of a business is to create AND keep a customer," believed two of the finest management thinkers - Theodore Levitt and Peter Drucker. To create and keep a customer means that not only has the product or service be fit for purpose and be attractive, it has to be supported by superb customer service. However, to do this the product, the service has to be profitable, otherwise the bank or supplier will skimp on both the product and the customer service.
Current treasury products and service levels
Today many corporate treasury departments probably do not pay enough for the products and services they use for the level of product/service quality and customer service they expect. So we now have suppliers charging extra for all sorts of specialized customer service add-ons to meet these expectations. OK the products should be more reliable and bug free, but quality costs - ask Apple’s Tim Cook. Meeting a need with a quality product/service comes first at Apple, and then, if they cannot market it at an acceptable price, they don't do it.
Currently, the corporate treasury product and services market has many too many mediocre, marginally profitable products and services that require excessive amounts of customer service to keep them going. In addition, many banks and suppliers are trying to provide too many services. Something has to give.
Improving customer service
Banks and suppliers world-wide have major programmes to improve the quality and consistency of their customer service. SunGard, a major supplier of corporate treasury systems and services, already provides different levels of service for many of their products and services. They have appointed a dedicated Customer Experience Executive to drive the world-wide programme to improve customer service. Additionally, they are looking at reducing and simplifying the customer service options offered.
Banks also have major initiatives to improve their customer service, e.g. RBS's recent launch of their accelerated Client Onboarding is just one example of the huge customer service improvement programme that Carole Berndt introduced.
Limiting customisation and no. of products/coverage
The founding premise of Bloomberg's entry into the TMS market, the Bloomberg TRM, was that the product would offer very little customisation to keep the implementation and maintenance to a minimum. Bloomberg argue that most customisation is unnecessary, as many of the smaller corporate treasury departments (and probably large departments too) can manage with the standardised cash and treasury management functionality. Not only this, it makes customer service support so much easier. This approach to product delivery will surely be copied by many other banks and suppliers.
Another impact of corporate treasury departments increasing demand for product excellence and improved customer service will be that banks and other suppliers will have to withdraw from markets and product areas. We are seeing this as not only RBS, but many other banks as well, rationalise their partnerships and coverage. This will lead to increasing number of banks, e.g. Barclays, and suppliers, e.g. TMS suppliers, partnering with parties they would have regarded as competitors previously.
Corporate treasury department role in improving products and services
Corporate treasury departments need to demand improved bug free products and services + excellent customer service, but they need to be prepared to pay more to ensure that the product/service is profitable. The other focus could usefully be on simplifying their systems and procedures, e.g. some years ago one major Dutch MNC's corporate treasury department simplified its systems so that they could use SAP's cash and treasury management systems without, in any way, losing control or increasing their risks, while improving overall group efficiency.
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