An extensive debate has been continuing for quite some time over the roles of relationship managers in different industries of the fiercely competitive markets across the globe. While some claim that the title is simply a marketer of services and products, others consider the position to be that of a solution-provider. The actual role depends on the tasks and responsibilities of the professional.
Relationship managers are assigned by a firm to act as a bridge between its customers and itself. Bridging or match-making between the firm and the customers is a tough task as the manager would need to understand the perspectives of all the stakeholders before making the match. Otherwise the efforts will be futile. So it is evident that knowledge is the only prerequisite for the relationship manager if he wants all stakeholders to confide in him.
Now questions may arise: "What kind of knowledge should the relationship manager need to have?", "To what extent and how will he apply them to get the best output?", and so on.
Knowledge refers to the facts, information, and skills acquired through experience or education. Experience refers to the practical contact with and observation of facts or events during the career. Education is the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university. So experience and education goes hand-in-hand for a knowledgeable professional. While experience will hone the skills of a relationship manager over time, education will help him to deal with the various challenges he will be facing.
This is also the reason why the most difficult of questions are thrown at the relationship managers. For example, a relationship manager of a bank recently met a corporate client in Dhaka. During a meeting with the heads of that corporation, he was asked by the head of the corporate house, 'How much exposure can your bank shoulder for us?" The question carried a multi-dimensional inquiry where the customer tried to understand the bank's single borrower exposure limit, the total capital of the bank, the strength of emotional intelligence of the relationship manager and the different products of the banks.
The efficient relationship manager was able to discuss all the topics mentioned and eventually the bank managed to win the account of the corporate client.
To be a good marketer, a relationship manager needs to know the marketing strategy through product-knowledge, their pricing, be well-groomed and well-versed in English in order to properly communicate with a customer. A good relationship manager will also have the emotional intelligence and knowledge of the industry in which he or she is engaged in.
A relationship manager (RM) needs to be able to create an impression that he is a solution-provider in the minds of a customer. He or she should play a pivotal role in ensuring that customers remain loyal to the firm and can reach out to him or her whenever they have queries. For him, there is no alternative to garnering knowledge particularly on the pros and cons of a particular industry, especially the one he or she is a part of.
For example, a bank's relationship manager must have deep-rooted understanding of banking laws and rules for giving regulatory solution, emotional intelligence (EI) to feel the pulse of customers and colleagues as well, and technological knowledge about the banking industry. These three qualities can turn a relationship manager into a solution-provider rather than restricting him within the boundaries of a marketer.
Mohammad Rafiqul Islam is the Head of Learning and Development, NRB Bank Limited.
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