How is it that so many lending institutions in NZ failed and couldn’t get back up, when GE Money held its ground and became stronger in 2009?
It was a hard time for most New Zealanders and businesses as we watched in horror as another bank collapsed like a broken building around us. Financial institutions were the foundation stone of our needs, upon which nothing was safe.
During these tough times, there is still opportunity.
GE Money used the necessary cost cutting exercise to flip the challenge on its head. How do we become closer to our customers during this time of fear and mistrust? How do we become more customer centric?
The last thing they thought would achieve this would be to close branches. Branches offered trust, security, safety presumably? Yet, the necessary closure of branches freed GE to develop a new way to do lending.
1) Instead they invested in a stronger, local call centre that were trained to much higher rigorous standards to ensure that customers could get the same personal, dedicated experience they would expect from a branch.
2) They invested in online systems, looking for the fastest way to approve lending, but maintaining the strong risk policies that had sured the company from failure in the first place.
3) They reviewed processes and procedures that were developed at the branches and cut out unnecessary steps – and delegated lending authority to the trained and skilled operatives on the phone instead of requiring GE Head Office approval for each application.
4) They extended call centre opening hours, so that customers could contact them during their preferred times, rather than during branch opening hours.
What happened? Customers were delighted by the great service, the fast response to their application and the ability to now contact the business 24/7. There were a number of customers who wanted to stay with face to face connections locally who moved to other providers, but in 12mths, GE Money recouped more customers than it had lost. With faster, more cost efficient and customer centric solutions GE not only survived the global financial crisis, but came out stronger and better placed than it had before it happened.
So the message?
Tough times are often the best times to innovate. Often all you can achieve at the top is complacency and a line of people ready to knock you off. A challenge is definitely an opportunity if you look at it and make it better. For smaller businesses this is a real and an every day challenge. Fixing something that is broken and putting it back to how it was is pointless – the world would have moved on.
If it’s broken, or you suspect it could break very soon, take it apart and put it back together in a new way that will make it stronger and better than it ever was before.