Abid Hussain Barlaskar

Axis Bank positions itself as humane, invites you to experience the brand

The bank's latest campaign is about the Axis experience.

Axis Bank's latest campaign 'Dil Se Open' is unlike most conversations happening around modern day financial services. The campaign is about the offline experience of the brand and comes at a time when there is a major push for digitisation. It is Axis' invitation to engage offline on one hand, with the ecosystem of apps, wallets, OTPs and chatbots on the other. The campaign has been crafted by Lowe Lintas and attempts at humanising the brand.

It's not that the bank doesn't have its digital strengths. As per Axis' claims, the bank has the best rated mobile app and is the most actively used banking app in the country. It has also added more than 1,000 branches in the last two years.

The 'Open' proposition has been projected via a bunch of scenarios in the ad film, keeping accessibility, absence of bias and openness at its core. ‘Open’ is slated to bring about a shift backed by process transformations within the bank. These changes are focused in bringing down the TAT (Turn Around Time) on customer requests. The bank has also introduced Saksham - a new unified front-end solution built to empower the brand's 60,000 strong staff with not only the customer's views but also to offer a solution to all requests related to any product or service.

The Axis Group includes Axis Mutual Fund, Axis Securities, Axis Finance, Axis Capital, Axis Bank Foundation to name a few the campaign aims to create a unified voice and positioning that builds the mother brand, Axis.

The campaign will be released pan India with TV bursts both in mainstream and regional media, leveraging properties that includes the India-New Zealand cricket series, the Union Budget and the forthcoming Delhi elections. But why bat for offline when the world is trying to pack everything in an app?

“In a digitized world, branches for us aren’t just physical real estate to house products and services. Even today, while customers may transact digitally, the branch network is the biggest category driver for brand consideration because customers still look for a branch close to their home/workplace,” says Asha Kharga, group chief marketing officer, Axis Bank.

Asha Kharga
Asha Kharga
Axis Bank

Kharga mentions that when it comes to personal finance, large ticket loans, tax consultation, and long-term investments people prefer speaking to a human being who can guide and advise on the right products and services. “Customer contactability is the key to deeper engagement which in turn leads to better opportunities to cross-sell and up-sell other services depending upon customer needs,” she adds.

Customers usually walks into a branch for a service request and the top 25 service requests contribute to 90 per cent of the the total volume of requests. “We are within biting distance of achieving digitisation of this volume. This is enabling us to flip the role of branch employees from operations to service and sales,” Kharga explains.

When dealing with personal investments, emotions play an important role and bank employees provide instant solutions while leveraging technology, and focus on fulfilling customer needs. All of this leads to the right balance between the 'high tech-high touch' approach. This doesn’t apply only to brick and mortar setup in banking, but even to a fashion stylist or a toys store. There is no going back to analogue days if you want to survive and prosper with the customers of today and tomorrow. The service standards in brick and mortar have to attain digital parity, but with a human touch. And that’s something customers would never want to lose.

Speaking on the mostly digital nature of 'user experience' conversations, Kharga elaborates, “If it is about ‘user experience’ online, when it comes to offline the terminology would be ‘human experience’ – be it making your time fluid and flexible aided by technology, making customer interactions fast and efficient without any unwanted processes, providing cross-channel experience by accessing all the information and more. No matter how technologically advanced we become, every app, algorithm and screen is created by humans for humans to use.”

Today, a lot of financial services do not actually have a consumer facing physical presence. What is that extra edge that offline presence provides? We ask.

In response Kharga says, “Garnering deposits is a key component of banking and for building deposits and galvanising business growth beyond metros, you need physical infrastructure. While digital helps in providing ease and convenience to customers which even banks like us are providing to all our customers, the truth is that people want to speak to a banker to know how their life savings are being looked after. They want to see a physical presence in the vicinity to build trust before parking their savings. They are looking for lending solutions, wealth solutions, where complex financial language will be translated and understood and that is the ‘Soft edge’ that leads to tangible business outcomes. Physical presence has to be bolstered by digital back end capabilities to make customer interaction fast and efficient.”

Speaking about the campaign Kharga reveals that there are essentially two parts to the creation of this philosophy. “The first part is that multiple brand equity studies over the years have always reinforced the customer-centric culture of Axis Bank. Second, we worked very closely with the process quality team to get various service enablers in place before launching OPEN. Some of these enablers have resulted in Axis Bank achieving 60 per cent reduction in complaints ratio per thousand customers. We made sure that the service transformation initiatives were in place, so that we don’t come across as a pure advertising campaign. The whole effort is synchronized to ensure value-added services backed by technology, for customers on a day-to-day basis, making the bank more accessible and responsive,” she signs off.

Industry speak:

Ronita Mitra, founder and chief strategist - Brand Eagle Consulting

While India has moved significantly on the digital path, Indians continue to value person to person interactions. Additionally, there are many BFSI areas that are intimidating to many people. There is therefore a role for branch banking in our country for a segment of customers. This is what Axis Bank is trying to differentiate itself with.

Ronita Mitra
Ronita Mitra

Apart from this differentiator, Axis Bank also appears to appropriate a high ground of 'Inclusivity' and 'Respect' as its brand purpose. What remains to be seen is the credibility of the claims - how sincerely and well these are actually delivered by the bank through its actions, beyond communication claims.

Prabhakar Mundkur, brand strategy consultant

Banks have been stressing on the online experience, but such an experience has no emotion. Somehow, it is not human centred. I think this film brings back the human-ness in banking.

Prabhakar Mundkur
Prabhakar Mundkur

'Dil se Open' is a very service oriented line and seems to sum up their corporate philosophy since it is also used on their website. I thought the film, like most corporate films, had a broad sweep from showing diverse customers to showcasing diverse services including start-ups. It is difficult for any brand to mean everything to everybody so the film has a difficult task. But I can imagine that the client gave the agency a laundry list to incorporate. Given that constraint, the agency has done a remarkable job.