1.1     Background to the Study

Every organisation is set out to achieve set goals and objectives. In a bid to achieve these, several methods are spelt out by the management to ensure that desired results are measurable and achievable. For business organizations, attention is usually focused on the need to determine customer wants or demands and strive to meet them in order to stay in business. Hence, the need to provide maximum customer satisfaction. Mullings (2005), noted that the most critical approach of any organization wishing to stay in business is in its approach in dealing with its customers. Therefore, placing customers at the center of organizational activities is central to the success or otherwise of any customer relations strategy.

The concept of providing maximum customer satisfaction involves ensuring quality products or service as well as effective customer relationship which are in line with customer demands. A customer is a person, group of people or an organization (or all of them) whose needs a business or service seeks to meet satisfactorily. Customers have been regarded as the reason why organizations stay in businesses. Businesses, therefore, exist to satisfy customer wants and needs in a manner that would benefit both the customer and the organization. Establishing a favourable relationship with customers is therefore vital to any business organization.

 Customer relation is about developing an effective relationship and interaction between an organization and its customers. Mullings (2005) defined customer relations as developing the most effective interactive customer service strategy, using principles of customer relations to determine and satisfy both existing and potential consumer needs. Sanda (2006) further revealed that a very effective customer service delivery involves all communication and service delivery strategies with which business organizations interface with their customers. These methods vary from taking responsibilities, accountability and other strategies for satisfying customers.

Business organizations are established to cater for the needs of customers to enable them to stay in business. Bhole (2006) explains financial service sector as business organizations that act as mobilisers and depositors of savings and suppliers of finance. They also provide services as intermediaries of the capital and debt markets. Financial institutions act as agents that provide financial services for their customers and are regulated by a government authority. Common types of financial institutions include: credit unions, commercial and microfinance banks, building societies, asset management firms and similar businesses. Commercial banks offer financial services such as keeping money for customers individuals, people or companies – exchange currencies, provide loans as well as other financial services.

The success or failure of organizations, according to Sanda (2006) depends, to a large extent, on how they are perceived by their publics their various stakeholders. This realization could be one of the reasons why banks have public relations or corporate affairs/communications department that manage and respond to the two-way forms of communications and challenges. Public relations, according to the British Institute of Public Relations, is the deliberate, planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and understanding between an organization and members of its publics. Public relation helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other (Public Relations Society of America). Establishing and maintaining goodwill between an organization and its customers, therefore, is a strategic role that necessitates public relations personnel to be professionally trained to handle such jobs.

This study, therefore, seeks to determine how effective customer relations - in form of customer-oriented programmes and services as a strategy of public relations can enhance the services of organizations with its customers. It would further seek to determine if customer relations has enhanced the patronage of organization and also assist them to retain customers and build mutual relationships between them. For the purpose of clarity, this study shall make of United Bank for Africa, UBA as a case study.

1.2  Statement of the Problem    

Absence of a very cordial relationship between firms and its numerous customers has made it seemingly difficult for firms to achieve their sales goals and made it to directly affect their image in the society. For example, financial institutions like banks, given the sensitivity of the commodity (money) that they handle, and the fact that they must to deal with different kinds of people with different behaviours – it is therefore their responsibility to meet up with the consistent and diverse needs and services of these sets of people to a minimal level. As the increasing influence of customers to firms cannot be underestimated, the ability to effectively manage customer relations has been considered to be of great importance to firms like banks. Problems occur when banks fail to pay proper attention to the needs and demands of customers and also know how they are perceived by their customers. There is usually a major dilemma when industrial managers and leaders know the importance of effective customer relations, yet there have been cases of ineffective customer relations in financial institutions. Ineffective communication and a lack of mutual understanding between organizations and customers is a continuous problem that organizations face in their relations with customers. No wonder there is a high demand for research on the importance of staff customer relationship on organizational image. This study will therefore be designed to investigate the impact of staff customer relationship on organizational image and establish how effective customer relations as well as strategies can assist firms to retain customers and build a solid relationship between them.

1.3  Research Objectives

The general objective or main objective of this study is to examine the impact of staff customer relationship on organizational image by using selected UBA Plc around Ikeja Local Government Area, Lagos State, as a case study. The specific objectives are:

i)            To study the contributions of staff customer relationship on organizational image UBA Plc.

ii)          To understand the strategies used by the management of UBA Plc for staff customer relationship in protecting their organizational image.

iii)        To examine the prevalence of staff customer relationship on organizational image of UBA Plc.

1.4  Research Questions

The following are some of the questions which this study intends to answer:

i)            What are the contributions of staff customer relationship on organizational image UBA Plc?

ii)          What are the strategies used by the management of UBA Plc for staff customer relationship in protecting their organizational image?

iii)        What is the prevalence of staff customer relationship on organizational image of UBA Plc?

1.5  Research Hypotheses

The followings are the research hypotheses to be tested in this study:

i)            There is a significant relationship between staff customer relationship and the profitability of an organisation.

ii)          There is a significant correlation between staff customer relationship and patronage by customers.

1.6  Significance of Study

        It has been said that the ultimate aim of any organization is to obtain or attain success by way of achieving its objectives, in view of the above statement, there is need for organization growth, and order in our commercial banks especially (UBA Plc), which has been described as the product of the relationship between staff and customers. This contractual relationship that exists between staff and customer has some problem that at times hinder the performance of the bank staff and this research work will significantly solve these problem in properly identified and understood way which will go a long way towards reducing areas conflict and tension between the staff and customers.

1.7  Scope of the Study

        This study on the impact of staff customer relationship on organizational image, a case study of United Bank for Africa Limited could have been extended to cover the nation as a whole and beyond but because of the short period with within which the study would be completed and also attitude of people. It is common knowledge that top executives of most companies in Nigeria do not give pertinent answer to question easily for reason of secrecy. The researcher is therefore anticipating some kind of unwillingness to give all the necessary answers that will be required from questions the researcher is compelled to limit the scope of the study to UBA Plc.

1.8  Limitation of the Study

The study on the impact of staff customer relationship on organizational image, a case study of United Bank for Africa will be studied to attain the objective if this research. The limitations of this study mostly are as follows:

Cost: Issuing and distributing of questionnaires cost money, this means of transportation to UBA branches around Ikeja Local Government Area, Lagos State is exorbitant, money is always needed for stationery, for typing and binding the project.

Time: A work of this nature needs time, therefore more time is needed for a better insight into the work is a detailed study is to be made.