April 23, 2014

Career Case- Customer Relationship Management

A case that helped me learn customer relationship management. A perfect example of managing a difficult/demanding customer


  • A three year old, profitable client is threatening to exit, citing high pricing as the reason.
  • The primary protagonist (Mr X) from the client’s side sits in Ahmadabad Plant while our main point of contact has been the Finance Director who is based out of the corporate Office at Delhi and is nearing retirement in 8 months.
  • The relationship was handed over to me after 3 months of starting my first banking job.


A foreign currency loan arranged by us is falling due in the next 7 days. The client wants to roll it over (extend the due date) at the same price. That was not possible as the price of foreign funds had doubled amidst fears of a Euro collapse. This is a terrible situation to be in, we can neither roll the loan over and nor we can afford the client to default on a committed re-payment. Our main point of contact is retiring and we don’t have an option apart from persuading Mr X.

Step 1: We decide to meet Mr X in Ahmadabad and seek time from him (4 days before the due date for the Loan).

The Meeting:

A team of 3, including me and two seniors get an audience with Mr X after waiting for more than 45 minutes. The first 15 minutes witness the most acrimonious one sided verbal exchange that a professional can expect. The next 15 minutes feature a compassionate plea (from our side off course) to not throw this meeting and the relationship to a close because of one extraneous event. angry customer“Euro crisis impacts all banks and if other banks can do it cheaper and on better terms, why should we continue banking with you?” asked Mr X. My boss stepped in to defend. “Sir pricing at the moment is out of our control but I assure you that our service is unparallel.” “Really.” Mr X responded like the Sultan of Sarcasm. “Ask your Relationship Manager, when was the last time he spoke to me.” Boss stepped in again, “Sir, I realize that your previous experience has not been satisfactory but I request you to give us twenty days, we will change things.” ‘I’ was the ‘change’ he was referring to. As an RM it was me who had to manage the customer experience bit. “Not the best first customer”, I thought to myself. The end to the meeting was slightly better than the start was. Mr X agreed to roll-over the loan at a higher interest cost but outlined better service as the bare minimum in return. My flight back to Delhi was spent in the middle of some serious advice and sugar coated warnings. Welcome to life after MBA.

The next one week

Mr X took it upon himself to test the service. Virtually all products we could possibly offer were discussed in detail. My lack of grip on the subject was quite visible and I was spending the late evenings, reading RBI Circulars on Export Finance. Every transaction that took place from the day of our meeting in Ahmadabad was a test of nerves. Mr X needed everything quick and cheap. I am yet to take so many special approvals for pricing and documentary exceptions for any client. On the positive front, I was learning fast while ensuring that there were no major slippages. But it was not the sort of transformation that my boss was envisaging. With the quarter end approaching fast, we needed to grow our income from the client and it seemed improbable at the moment.

The Turning Point

It was a Friday afternoon and I was thanking my good stars that I had not heard from Mr X in the last couple of days. But something propelled me into dialling him (may be the quarter end targets). Here is an excerpt from the conversation: Me: Sir, I just generally called, I was hoping if we could discuss the possibility of opening salary accounts of your new staff with us. Mr X: Looks difficult but you can meet me with the proposal tomorrow.  I am in Delhi. Me: Oh great! I hope everything is fine Sir. Mr X: Yeah. Actually I am trying to get permits for the Amarnath Yatra but things are not working out. My RM of XYZ bank assured me that it will be managed but he has expressed his inability now. Me: Oh. I am sorry Sir. (Why is he telling me? I thought to myself) He disconnected after confirming the meeting at 11:30 Am tomorrow. “What if I can arrange the Yatra permits for him?”, I asked my boss while describing the whole event. “It will be a great help”, he replied. I spent the next two hours searching on the internet and calling people about the Yatra permits. I could get through a gentleman (the RM of another client) at a PSU Bank branch in Dharuhera (60 Kms from office). His bank was coordinating the Yatra Permits for North India and he assured me that he could arrange four permits by the morning next day. I left home at 7:30 in the morning next day and took the permits and understood the formalities that needed to be performed.

Meeting 2

I was getting late and thought calling the Mr X will be a good idea. On the call I told him about the permits and he couldn’t help but express his delight. When I reached his office, he himself came to the reception to take me to his room and offered some tea and biscuits (totally against his usual stern self). Things changed completely since that day.


The relationship grew in volume and profitability with my bank emerging as the preferred banking partner for Mr X. While I moved on to a new set of clients, we still exchange pleasantries and season’s greetings at a regular basis. During my hand-over meeting, the client explicitly told my regional head that “Nitin is the best RM we have amongst all banks that we deal with.” iStock 000018852533 Small Happy Customer Learning

Sales is all about relations. As a relationship manager you cannot restrict yourself to daily transactions, you must go beyond and create value for the client and the people who matter.

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