Customer & Client

We aim to be the financial services group of choice

Material focus areas

Why this is important:

Customer service is central to our growth strategy. To retain existing and acquire new customers, we have to remain relevant by offering appropriate and innovative products and solutions at the right cost.

Desired outcomes

For our customers and clients

  • Simple, efficient cost-effective banking solutions
  • A safe and trustworthy financial services provider

For the Group

  • Improved Net Promoter Score®
  • Increased revenue from existing customers and clients, and new business
  • Ultimately, customer and client trust and support

Key matters raised by stakeholders

  • Access to financial services that are cost-effective, simple and convenient
  • Financial inclusion through products, increased access points (physical and digital) and markets
  • System reliability and availability to transact on their chosen platform
  • Service levels and efficient resolution of service failures (complaints)
  • Protection against fraud, and safety of personal data (customer privacy and data security)

Measuring our progress

1 Total number of South African customers with open Absa core banking products such as cheque accounts, savings accounts, secured and unsecured loans (excludes wills, life policies, Edcon, Woolworths Financial Services and Virgin Money South Africa).
2 Net Promoter Score® (NPS®) is a brand relationship score, defined as the percentage difference between the promoters and detractors, based on their likelihood to recommend the Group to friends and family. Net Promoter Score and NPS are trademarks of Satmetrix Systems, Inc., Bain & Company Inc. and Fred Reichheld.
3 Total number of complaints (any expression of dissatisfaction) logged in the year per 1 000 customers. Previously reported complaints per 1 000 accounts and no comparative is available.
4 The number of complaints opened and closed with the South African Ombudsman for Banking Services for the reporting period.
LA This indicator is covered by the scope of a limited assurance engagement undertaken by EY and PwC. The basis of measurement thereof and the assurance statement can be found here.


Understanding customer and client needs

Customers and clients are increasingly demanding that businesses understand them better and use already-received information to provide better service. Interactions with our customers and clients, from a point-of-sale (POS) device, an ATM, internet banking or in a branch, are opportunities to understand them better. Harnessing this information allows us to better tailor customer and client solutions, which meet their needs at the right moment.

Technology has taken over a large part of the transactional banking relationship, and improves the speed with which we serve our customers and clients across all channels. It is not enough to understand data – it is the intelligent interaction between data, insights-driven solutions and human interactions with customers and clients that ultimately leads to differentiating ourselves through richer solutions with the correct products, services and advice.


Creating and delivering solutions

Our customer and client service model changes as we evolve our capabilities. We structure our core business activities and processes to develop solutions suited to our customers’ and clients’ individual life stages or their current business needs while providing outstanding experiences, privacy and security.

We continue enhancing core customer and client value propositions, strengthening existing, and building new strategic partnerships.

We continue to identify and anticipate customer and client needs. For example, we reduced administrative burdens on customers and clients by introducing account number portability, which allows them to keep their account number when changing account types. Our customers and clients are able to digitally upload their FICA documents for future use. We also offer a range of convenient payment and purchase options to customers and clients. Payment Pebble – a mobile payment acceptance device for any smartphone – enables quick payments.

Prepaid cards are available for youth accounts in Zambia, and CashSend allows cash withdrawals at our ATMs without a bank card, via a mobile phone in Botswana, Kenya and South Africa. Customers in South Africa can purchase prepaid electricity through ATMs, the Absa banking app, Absa Online portal and ChatBanking.

Customers and clients also have more control over payments made by direct debit through our first-to-market online debit order reversal in South Africa. Absa customers and clients can, within 40 days, request that an unauthorised debit order be reversed instantly, and prevent future debit order transactions from taking place.

Product access has been increased by using tablets to open accounts at remote locations across Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius and Zambia. Customers and clients in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda without access to smartphones can make use of Hello Money – a basic mobile phone banking solution. Online bill payments are available in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

We added functionalities to our cash-accepting devices, our app and online platforms. Self-registration is available for customers and clients on our Absa mobile banking app; stand-alone home loan and vehicle finance registration is available via Absa Online, and our Absa Homeowners app offers speed, convenience and 24/7 access along with in-principle credit decisions.

Business Banking’s electronic sales platform has been enhanced, and we developed instant online account opening for businesses via digital channels. Small and medium enterprises can use Business Essentials Light – a cost-effective transactional account. We enabled the Halo Pay app to link to Absa digital services, allowing micro-businesses to issue payslips, pay employees from the business’ Absa account and allow those employees with or without bank accounts to withdraw from Absa ATMs.

Our WIMI customers benefit from purchasing insurance and logging short-term insurance claims online and Absa’s Affinity Life – a first-to-market predictive underwriting tool that uses customer-level data to predict what the outcome for medical underwriting would be without the inconvenience of full medical assessments.

In CIB, client engagement integrates client coverage across Africa through end-to-end relationship management origination activities, leveraging segment and sector specialisation.

We have been taking a leading role in helping develop products and investigate technologies that will bring efficiencies and cost savings to Africa. This includes Blockchain (a digital ledger where transactions are made in a cryptocurrency, and recorded chronologically and publicly) – which has the potential to fundamentally change the way certain businesses operate. Together with Barclays PLC, we facilitated the world’s first trade finance transaction using Blockchain. Such a trade, which would normally take between 2 – 10 working days, was processed in just four hours. This technology is expected to create significant efficiencies, reduce costs and eliminate inherent risks associated with trade documentation. As a member of R3 – a global Blockchain consortium – we have access to global knowledge and tools and have initiated a working group in South Africa to co-create further Blockchain solutions.


Balanced distribution model

The ongoing evolution of financial services gives our customers and clients a choice from a range of relevant channels, suited to their individual lifestyles and needs. Our multi-channel strategy provides customers and clients with a range of platforms offering face-to-face and technology-based solutions. We continue improving customer and client experience by simplifying processes, reshaping our branch network and investing in our digital channels.

We provide physical access via 1 207 branches and 10 013 ATMs across our operations. We continue refurbishing and re-positioning some of our branches, ATMs and cash accepting devices. ATMs are available 24 hours a day, with functionalities such as cash acceptance and CashSend in all markets except for Seychelles. Cash withdrawal via a point-of-sale device is available in Seychelles (first-to-market), South Africa and Zambia.

Our digital strategy has two clear execution streams. The first focuses on system resilience and stability – including modernisation of our network, system availability, disaster recovery capabilities and the management of information and cyber risks. With the second, we are adapting our thinking to radically change customer and client experience and anticipate what financial services will look like in the future.

Strengthening and extending our online and mobile services remains a priority. 26% (2015: 23%) of our customers are now active on our digital platforms. We overhauled the Absa Online website and released a refreshed mobile Absa banking app with a redesigned human experience. We promoted online banking and other digital solutions in the Rest of Africa, providing customers and clients with more convenient banking capabilities. We also refreshed our Kenyan online banking website.

We are automating end-to-end processes, and implementing systems that simplify our customers’ and clients’ experiences, while re-engineering our front-end systems to provide employees with the right tools and capability to serve our customers and clients.

New technologies, such as wearables, mobile payment options and messaging apps, are changing consumers’ lives, and banks are adopting these technologies to remain relevant and competitive. Our Application Programming Interface platform permits applications to safely link into online and mobile banking, payment processing, risk calculators and ATM locations. Award winning examples include ChatBanking (a first on Twitter in Africa and a global first on Facebook) which allows customers to perform limited transactions through social media.

We keep evolving and building new strategic capabilities that enable us to be relevant and competitive into the future. We have launched new digital payment technologies and are leveraging strategic partnerships to drive innovation, increase market access and enhance our customer and client value propositions. Launched in 2015, Rise Africa is an innovation community built around both a physical space and a digital platform, creating a local, regional and international community for the top fintech start-ups to connect, co-create and scale their innovative ideas and connect with corporates. Robotics and artificial intelligence are simplifying and automating our services.

Measuring our performance

The growth of our business is directly linked to the way we treat our customers and clients, and manage their assets. Our NPS® customer survey score in South Africa improved to 24% in 2016 (2015: 22%) while Rest of Africa achieved an average NPS® of 31% (2015: 32%). Our Group NPS® ended at 28%LA (2015: 24%LA).

In our first year of measurement, complaints per 1 000 customers was 0.85 for the Group. We resolved 54% of complaints at first point of contact (2015: 52.1%). In South Africa, the number of Ombudsman for Banking Services complaints increased to 798LA opened (2015: 193LA) and 767LA closed (2015: 633LA). The significant increase was experienced across the industry. Through our complaints monitoring and voice of customer research, we actively identify causes of dissatisfaction.


Ensuring trust and safety

For customers and clients, financial crime risks include ATM and branch security (for example, card skimming and robberies), card fraud, and online security risks – such as spyware and computer viruses. We aim to protect our customers and clients through our controls and processes, as well as education and awareness.

In 2016, we brought together our forensics, security and fraud operations, integrating investigations and enhancing the quality of our decision-making when mitigating risks. Our fraud prevention capability continued improving, benefiting from:

  • ongoing customer awareness;
  • more effective management of related key risks; and
  • technology upgrades – including enhanced authentication and security for online banking, mobile banking, mobile banking apps and card-not-present transactions.

Total fraud losses amounted to R256m, 29% less than in 2015 (R362m), and continued decreasing ahead of industry trends, with 81% (R210m) of fraud losses (2015: 86%, R281m) attributable to South Africa. Card fraud remains the main contributor to fraud losses, amounting to 50%, (R128m) (2015: 43%, R156m) of total losses in the Group. The reduction in card fraud losses is mainly due to the introduction of more secure chip and PIN cards, as well as significant changes in the early detection of application and transaction fraud.

Customers and clients lost a total of R101m during 2016, largely due to more online transactions via internet and mobile banking. Fraudsters aggressively target customers with the intention of securing their account numbers, PINs and passwords. This increase in online fraud is a broader industry and global trend. Online fraud is currently the largest contributor to retail customer losses. Awareness remains a key defence, and we continue engaging with our customers and clients about the risks they face.

Violent crime prevention in South Africa has notably improved, with significant decreases in all crimes, except burglaries at ATMs, which have stabilised. In general, the reduction is thanks to successful application of advanced security technology. Operating conditions, in terms of physical security, have remained stable in operations outside South Africa.

As challenges such as cyber fraud and violent crimes remain we will continue investing in defences to protect our customers and clients, and the Group.