Thursday, June 02, 2005

Bank upon them???

Recently I had to visit a few banks to procure an education loan for my further studies. I had a lot of fliers from different banks with competitive terms and rates of interest. There are many banks who provide financial assistance. However best deals can be had only fom government banks. But since I wanted it for IIM-A, I wasn't very worried. Armed with all documents and confidence, I set out on my quest, sure that they would process it without a hitch. Boy! Was I wrong!!

I first went to the great Indian Bank nearby. Small dingy office, loads of people stuffed in, no water/ac, lots of confusion. Nevertheless my mother and I found our way in, looking for the person dealing with Loans. After a few mins of going from one desk to the other, we finally were guided to the right one, which, alas, was empty.. The officer had chosen that very moment to go for a stroll in the park or something, because we never saw him all the time that we were there. We waited for 15 minutes, than asked where he was. No one, not 1 person, had a clue where he was or why he wasn't on his desk. And no one bothered to find out either.

I looked around me. There were so many people clueless and without guidance. No one was helping them out. There was a very very old lady, who apparently could not speak in hindi. She came alone. Finally a stranger woman, a co-customer, not a bank employee, helped her get to the right individual. I caught some fragments of their conversation. Apparently the old woman had not received pension for the past 6-7 months, and was finding it difficult to survive. The employee said " We dont know. Get the death certificate, employment details, pension/bank details." The old woman was worried: how in the world would she get hold of all this, this frail little lady who could hardly walk???? But the staff was apathetic. They had the " We dont care how you do it, it is your problem, not ours" attitude. Poor thing.

Meanwhile my mother started getting impatient. Although we were told to speak to the officer and not the branch manager, she barged in his room, and started off about my admission and our requirements. The branch manager said " Why have you come here? Go out and talk to teh officer in charge. Don't waste my time." We told him the guy was not available. He called another officer to confirm this. He spoke in a regional language, but his conversation was seasoned with enough english/understandable words for us to deduce he was upset that they let us in, that he did not have time for us. He then delivered the same, saying he was busy, had something very important to do. Mom started to say " My daughter has got through IIM-A. We got a letter from your Ahmedabad branch manager stating that their regional branch would be happy to grant us the loan." With a I could'nt care less tone he said that all this doesnt matter to him. If we needed anything, we would have to come some other time. Goodbye. You can leave now.

Thats it. He did not even offer the two ladies a seat, forget water etc. Whatever little time that he spoke to us, he was curt, almost rude, and he got back to his work. We just looked at him, then at each other, silent, enraged at being dismissed like this, but aware that we didnt have much of a choice. Without a word, we left the premises, vowing never to return.

I was thoroughly disappointed that day. I thought banks were not just about numbers and money, but also people. If you have a customer, isn't it fair you treat them well? Give them reasons why their work is being delayed or they are not being attended to, apologise for inconvenience caused, give other options according to the customer's needs, urgency of matter and convenience. Help those who are not that bank-savvy, instead of avoiding customer queries/difficulties, by absolving themselves of all mistakes and responsibility, passing everything on to the head of the customer!!

I really wanted to tell that guy at Indian Bank "Mr. Manager, you may be hot shot in your bank, but I could teach you a thing or two about customer satisfaction. "

Having worked with American Express and dealing with hundreds of customers everyday, I know how bad it feels when you leave them disapppointed, or how cherished they feel when they are treated well. Treating well doesnt mean give money to the undeserving or doing anything else which lead to a loss, but making the customer feel s/he is cherished, and if they are being told a service NO, giving a solid logical reason. And even then not to despair: there are other options available.

Well thats the way it works at American Express, but not Indian Bank. And thats why both banks are where they are. If they continue like this, they wont be left with too many patrons soon!