Can Demonetization be an Excuse for Poor Customer Service by the Banking Sector?
Dr. Manishankar Chakraborty
The real motive of demonetization
The reason for the government to opt for demonetization was definitely a strategic one. Even though there were lot of strain on the banks, businesses and individuals to comply with the alterations within a short notice, it was definitely not meant to be an excuse for any wrong doing on the part of anybody. Sample the following case study with a leading Indian bank, whereby the personnel tries to ride piggy on demonetization for their poor customer service. In hindsight it appears they are immune from the top management for any harsh actions owing to poor customer services rendered, under the pretext of excess workload owing to demonetization. The million dollar question to be asked is whether demonetization is an excuse that can be cited for a very long time, unlike other smaller ones, which in fact exposes a bank’s miserable plight while handling the customers.
Case Study depicting how Demonetization is used as garb for poor customer service
A customer was having an account with a pan India bank which was an NRE account in one part of India. He wanted to open a savings account jointly with his family member so that the new account can facilitate in taking care of all the family related operational expenses. The account was opened in the same bank at a different branch, located in a different state. The bank officials were cordial prima facie, while opening the account even though there was a perceptible change in the working environment of the branches, probably because of the different working culture and working environment prevailing in both the branches, based in different states, which was indeed surprising. That ideally should not be the case especially when a pan Indian bank ought to have standardization in everything and especially in the working culture and attitude of the employees, while serving the customers or while carrying out their daily chores. What was witnessed by the customer in the aforementioned case was indeed surprising as the NRE account as usual being in a developed state of the country, was always having prompt services being delivered, and if not a mere reminder would have done the job without much fuss and delay. On the other hand the new account opened in the other branch had flaws in customer service, one after the other. The new account was opened and the customer provided with his NRE account as is the norm being an account holder in the same bank, albeit in different branch, located in a different place. He also submitted all necessary documents and testimonials. The account was opened and the customer was promised to get the internet banking kit within a week’s time that too was emphasizedto be the maximum time frame for getting the internet banking kit. There was no follow up on the part of the bank, in the interim, to collect the envelope, and it was the customer who had tried to log in with the details presented through an SMS and the information received from the bank, only to see the message “invalid user name”. An email was sent to the manager and it went unanswered. The next day the customer went to the bank and met the manager in person so as to explain him the situation. The manager then put the customer over to a young executive who was well versed with Information Technology, as the manager confessed himself to be an IT illiterate! It was then discovered that the bank had goofed up the internet banking envelope, as it was mistakenly given to another customer who had changed the user name and password to her name.This was the reason for the invalid username and password. This glaring mistake was noticed only because the customer was proactive, or else it would not have been discovered by the bank official, owing to their carefree approach. There was no apology by the manager though and the concerned executive responsible for the fiasco apologized to the customer mildly, saying it happened owing to rush, to which, the customer politely said, that is okay, and sometimes it might happen, as to err is human. Little did the customer realize then it was a practice and routine and was not an aberration in that branch. Then the IT bank executive resolved the issue by changing the password, even though the user name was the same resembling that of the wrong customer, to whom the envelope was handed over in the first place. The executive though assured it would not have any safety and security related issue as the password was already changed. The customer came back with an assurance from the manager that the new account ATM card and cheque book would reach the residential address within 7 working days from their corporate/zonal office by post. More than 10 days passed, nothing was received and therefore, the customer sent an email to both the branches where the new account was opened and to the branch where the old NRE account was present. The latter was sent owing to some problems with the NRE account. While the NRE account related issue was resolved promptly within a day through ISD telephone calls and emails by the bank executive, the new account related issues remained unresolved and continuous email from the customer like routine went unanswered, nor did the sender get a telephonic call. This compelled the customer to escalate the issue and write to the Chairman and Managing Director, as well as to all the AGM’s so as to share how different branches of the same bank, in different cities had different working culture as well as varied attitude and sincerity towards the customer, and more so how the customer service of different branches varied like that of chalk and cheese. Even though there were no emailed acknowledgement of the mail sent by the customer, a day before, customer’s family member got calls from the branches as an after-effect to the email sent to the top echelons of the bank. Initially the branch officials were saying the cheque book and ATM card has been collected by the customer, on denying the same and by citing the complaints made through emails, subsequently they confessed yet again there was a mistake of the customer’s cheque book and ATM card going to another customer as was the case with internet banking envelope earlier! On the top of it the officials who had called up was citing demonetization as a reason for the mistake, when the incident happened in the second week of January 2017, a time by which demonetization was mellowed down and that too in a small branch in a small town of India. Furthermore, the account was also opened on the last week of December 2016, a time when demonetization related rush and pressure of the employees had reduced, especially in a small city, where the branch was located, unlike some bigger metros, where there might have been a continued extended spell of work pressure and customer rush due to serpentine queue. A dejected customer after hearing the lame excuse of demonetization for repeated customer negligence and awful customer service replied to the top management of the bank, and asked whether this is what a market leader should do with their most important stakeholder, viz. the customer? He also asked what for the bank was giving the employees attracting compensation and benefits, when they were completely ignorant and careless about daily issues related to the customer. He also informed that he would approach the chief architect of demonetization, Honorable Prime Minister of the Republic of India asking him, whether demonetization can be an excuse for banks doling out such useless and shabby services to their customers!