about 8 months ago
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It’s Covid days now (we don’t go to the banks much) but before the pandemic, how has your experience been when you walk into any bank, to get a cheque book, or deposit money or renew a FD?

Majority of us would crinkle the nose and agree that it was not so good, left a bitter taste in the mouth. And RBI’s report, Annual Report of Ombudsman Schemes, 2019-20, released on Monday, reiterates exactly this fact - customers are simply not being treated right!  

The report covers the period between July 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020 and states that the number of complaints against banks rose by 58% in FY20. There were a total of 308,630 complaints v/s 1,95,901 in previous year.

In FY19, the maximum complaints were about banks not adhering to the Fair Practices Code (FPC). And in FY20, an overwhelming 47% of the total complaints received pertained to the digital modes of transactions. The major grounds of complaints were ATM/debit card related, mobile/electronic banking, and then non-observance of fair practices code.

Once again, the finding was very much in line with what we have experienced - the bigger the bank, higher was the customer dissatisfaction.

So, the Ombudsman disposed the following number of complaints – watch for the link between the size of the bank and the number of complaints:

  • SBI – 48,333
  • HDFC Bank – 15,004
  • ICICI Bank – 11,844
  • Axis Bank – 10,457
  • PNB – 9,928.

Another finding was that the complaints against PSU banks actually reduced from 59.65% to 61.90% (YoY) while that against private banks, rose from 28.04% to 31.96%.

Walk into any bank, more so private banks based on personal experience – the “May I Help You?” employs some of the rudest and most brusque employees. And if you have to do some transactions via the phone,  you have to spend hours first  being on hold, listening to their inane advertorial talks and once you get through, ypu end up talking to machines on the phone, pressing “1” and “2” for ages. And after spending an hour, it is quite a common occurrence for the call to drop and you have to begin all over again!

Think about it. We all are just a number, a statistic for most banks. The aim of the bank is to improve efficiency, reduce costs and increase profitability. Creating customer loyalty through services is just not in the mission, vision or philosophy. It is all about getting the maximum customers – all first timers, weaned away from competitors with ‘cards and deals’; it is never about retaining existing ones.

Why has this attitude changed? Quite a few reasons. First and foremost, which many might not agree but is the truth – people are just not as well-mannered as before. Road rage, public personalities behaving badly, swearing in public, rage on TV, increased violence – all point out to the simple fact that we all are poorer mannered than what people were 20-30 years ago. People are rude and difficult to please as tolerance levels are much lower. And that is what percolates down to poor customer service.

Another important factor – every employee is fighting to keep his job, designation and salary intact and this means most do not have any loyalty to the company; if they do not have this sense of ownership how will they ever work on nurturing loyal customers?

This is probably why chatting away with your local kirana shopkeeper improves his sales than a lady at the mall. And that is why kirana shops have existed despite malls cropping up; in fact it is malls that have been closing down!

Customer discontent is a sleeping giant; if woken, hell hath no fury! Banks better pay heed!

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