1.1 Background of the Study
Nigerian banks in the face of increasing competition are currently facing enormous challenges which have made survival increasingly difficult. To survive and be successful providers of financial services, it is extremely important that the present environment should go with a new management order which will offer the customer satisfaction and make better business performance. It is evident that today customers have increasingly become so enlightened and aware of their importance that ignoring them in search for competitive advantage can be suicidal for banks. Therefore, banks must brace up to the challenges in a bid to provide an effective customer service.
Banking operations in Nigeria started in 1892 when African Banking Corporation opened its first branch in Lagos to finance the shipping business of Elder Dumpster and Company which was operating steamship services between Liverpool and the West African coast. The Bank of British West Africa took over the activities of the African Banking Corporation in 1893 (now First Bank of Nigeria Plc). In 1917, Barclays Bank (now Union Bank of Nigeria Plc) was established. Shortly year, many more Banks were established; some of which are the British and French Bank (now United Bank for Africa Plc) established in 1949, the Industrial and Commercial Bank established in 1929, National Bank of Nigeria Plc established in 1933, the Agbonmagbe Ban (now Wema Bank) established in 1945, Nigeria Penny Bank established in 1940, Nigeria Farmer and Co-operative Bank Plc established in 1947 and so on. (Okoh, S. E. and Unugbro, A. O. 2003).
Since independence banking industry has grown tremendously and serves the greater proportion of the general public. With the liberalization of bank license in 1980, a more competitive environment and efficiency in the banking system was promoted. Bank is a customer oriented services industry. A bank depends upon the customers for their survival in the market. The customer is the focus and customer service is the differentiating factors (Guo et al., 2008). A bank can differentiate itself from competitors by providing high quality customer service (Naeem & Saif, 2009). Service quality is undoubtedly an important input for customer satisfaction which in turn influences customers’ behaviour in terms of loyalty (be it expressed in customers’ repurchase intentions, positive word of mouth or an increase in the number of performed banking operations), and thus enhance a bank’s image and performance. Efficacy of customer service is related with progressive operation.
In the competitive banking industry, customer satisfaction is considered as the essence of success. Organizations operating in service industries should consider service quality a key strategic issue for the business success (Spathis et al., 2004). Those service providers who establish a high level of service quality retain a high level of customer satisfaction; they also obtained a sustainable competitive advantage. Research indicates that companies with an excellent customer service record reported a 72% increase in profit per employee, compared to similar organizations that have demonstrated poor customer service; it is also five times costlier to attract new customers than to retain existing customers (Duncan, 2004). In some earlier studies, service quality has been referred as the extent to which a service meets customer’s needs or expectations (Lewis & Mitchell, 2000). Bank should be known about the expectation and perception of the customer. Measuring customer’s expectation is the key to being able to serve the customer satisfactorily. On the other hand, with better understanding of customer’s perceptions, bank can determine the actions required to meet the customer’s needs. In this way they can easily satisfied the customer which is directly impact on the overall performance of the bank. Customer satisfaction is one of the important tools to run a business and to achieve the mission statement. Indeed, customer satisfaction has great significance for the future of an institution and it is seen as a basis for securing market position and achieving other objectives of the institution. Therefore, achieving high levels of service is one method to keep customers both satisfied and loyal (Perng, 2007).
Customers in the banking sector are in a strong bargaining position due to the significant growth of banks. Therefore, banks have to provide service carefully because of the availability of banks. Service quality has been a vital issue of discussion and research over the past three decades. Research on service quality has well established that the customer perception of the quality of a service depends on customer’s pre-service expectations. Studies by Parasuraman et al. (2005), Zeithmal et al. (2000), noted that the key strategy for the success and survival of any business institution is the deliverance of quality services to customers. Accordingly, Chang (2008) deemed that excellent service quality is vital to business success and survival. Hence, delivering quality service to clients is a necessity for success and survival in today’s competitive world (Kheng et al., 2010). Banks do business with customer’s money. So, the more satisfied customers are involved in a bank’s row, the more secure business and profitability. If a bank cannot provide proper customer service, then the bank would be losing its customers. The profitability would also be decreasing because of the poor customer service. According to Kang (2004) many service delivery errors and problems can occur and that is not beneficial for the reputation of the organization. Ha and Jang (2009) argued that service failure occurs when customer perceptions do not meet customer expectations. The problem with service failure is that it may lead to a destroyed relationship between the customer and the organization. Thus the importance of customer satisfaction in today’s dynamic corporate environment is obvious as it greatly influences customer’s repurchase intensions whereas dissatisfaction has been seen as a primary reason for customer’s intentions to switch. Satisfied customers are most likely to share their experiences with other five or six people around them. Equally well, dissatisfied customers are more likely to tell another ten people about their unfortunate experiences with a particular organization. In order to achieve customer satisfaction, organizations must be able to build and maintain long lasting relationships with customers through satisfying various customers needs and demands (Pizam & Ellis, 2009). Otherwise, the combined effect of negative word-of-mouth, switching and reduced consumption will affect the productivity and profitability of the bank.