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The Axis of excellence

Axis Bank is India’s best bank. It edged out larger and higher profile rivals such as HDFC Bank and ICICI Bank — by very small margins. City-wise rankings | See graphics

india Updated: Mar 29, 2010 01:04 IST
Sandeep Singh

Axis Bank is India’s best bank. It edged out larger and higher profile rivals such as HDFC Bank and ICICI Bank — by very small margins.

“The ambience in Axis Bank branches is cool and there is a lot of space,” says Sani Rajan, a senior public relations executive in Mumbai and an Axis Bank customer for more than four years.

Earlier known as UTI Bank, its executives and customers credit the 2007 rebranding, last year’s change in management and a renewed focus on customer service for the success.

Rajan also likes the bank’s new-found accessibility.

“The bank has branches and ATMs in all prominent places. Ever since it changed its name from UTI to Axis Bank, I have seen a marked change in service quality.”

The bank was among the first to launch operations when the government allowed new private banks to be established in the early 1990s. But aggressive competitors such as ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank soon raced far ahead.

The Hindustan Times-MaRS survey of 9,486 respondents from 18 cities assessed customer satisfaction on aspects such as staff experience, branch facilities, automated teller machine (ATM) facilities and account opening process, among others.

Three years ago, the then UTI Bank sought to leave its past behind by changing its name and turning its focus to building better relations with clients and reaching out to areas where banking services were still limited.

For instance, it offered to pay the refundable Rs 1.5 lakh registration money needed to participate in a housing allotment lottery of the Delhi Development Authority in 2008 as loan to anyone on a payment of just around Rs 5,500.

A change of guard at the top – Shikha Sharma took over as managing director in April 2009 — only reinforced Axis Bank’s ‘client focus’.

The changes seem to have worked. According to the survey, clients are most satisfied with Axis Bank’s staff, overall facilities offered at its branches and the provision of account statements. The bank ranks second in customer satisfaction with its account opening process.

But it still lags behind in terms of turnaround time, or processing time for the sanction of loans, and satisfaction of ATM users.

“I do not know what turnaround time the customer is talking about,” says Manju Srivatsa, president, retail banking at Axis Bank. But she adds: “This will be very empowering for me to know and to address it.”

The areas it needs to improve in are clear.

It ranks fifth in terms of satisfaction with ATM services. State Bank of India and HDFC Bank are the two highest-ranked banks on this parameter.

Bangalore customers are most satisfied with Axis Bank, and those in Kolkata and Mumbai rank it second and third respectively. But it ranks a poor sixth in Delhi.

Obviously, it will have to address these lacunae if it wants to hang on to its ranking next year.