A tale of three banks and their peculiar customer service

In my high school years, First Street was the place to be seen. As a girl, it was a wise thing to ask your date, to meet you in this famous mall.  You could go window shopping at some of the famous retail outlets, and if you were lucky and he was working you could score with a dress or two from Topics or Edgars. But most of all, Chicken Inn had just made its debut. And that is where you could get all the fun.

By Joseline Sithole

But these days, this famous street is a former shadow of its glorious self. With pavements clogged with vendors selling every ware imaginable, moneychangers and traffic congestion it is very difficult to navigate one’s way around it and yet, alone feel safe. On my side I avoid the city centre like the plague and hardly venture out there unless I have something important I need to do.

On this day, however, I had no choice as I had to conduct training at one of the companies situated just in the vicinity of First Street.

After my training I then decided to do my banking errands. The previous week my phone had been stolen so I decided to block all my bank cards in case the thief had access to my pins. The journey to unlocking those cards was something I will soon like to forget.  Herein a tale of three banks and their customer care.

The Disappearing Bank

This bank was the closest to where I was conducting my training. Branch number one was being renovated and the builders had no idea where the bank had moved to. I was directed to branch number two, which incidentally had also moved. I finally located the remaining branch in a shopping mall. This one had a long queue with a smartly dressed security guard who I thought was a bit too stingy with the sanitiser. An hour later I finally squeezed myself in. I joined a wrong queue for about 30 minutes before being directed to the right queue. About 40 people were in front of me. I gave up and went back home. The air was stuffy, and I believe all attempts to remain with a mask would have caused my lungs some major poisoning.

In this bank the banking queues were extremely slow though the ZUPCO card registration seemed to be quite efficient. The banks lettering on its logo was also falling and there was the barest minimal staff for the hordes of customers who wanted to be served.

The only thing good about this bank was that, they were very efficient in blocking the card. My card remains blocked up to this day. Just a word to the management of this bank. Please come down from your air-conditioned offices and feel what customers feel in a cramped space with masks on.

The I don’t Know bank

Well this one made me lose a few pounds. After walking to the first branch, I was told that they did not unblock blocked cards. I queried why it was so, since it was a big branch. The young lady with a bored face simple replied” I do not know.” Hereafter I was directed to the second branch. The lady who attended to me at this branch one was embarrassed that she didn’t know where it was done herself.

To give her credit she did her best to ensure that the situation was rectified. A burly looking manager came and apologised profusely. (If apologies were cakes this one will be a delicious black forest cake) In his own words “You see mam we are never told where it happens”. I was then referred to another branch. Finally, some action but wait a minute, “The card is blocked so we don’t do that here, its done at our card centre”. I finally got to the right branch. But “low and behold” all the card numbers for the queue had been given out.

The guard told me to come the next day and chided me for being late. Well dear reader I will spare you the details of the drama that ensued.

To cut a long story all the processes that needed to be done for the unblocking of my card were conducted while I sat cozily in the guard’s chair. I have booked appointments with this bank’s customer people. By the way no one seems to know in which department this falls under.

The Slumber Party bank

With this one no number on the bank of my card was ever picked up. So yes I did not actually get a chance to cancel the card. Just “for kicks” I have tried to dial it and no one has never answered. This was the bank that spent two weeks to register my account. Some of the employees had misplaced my applications.

Having stayed in the diaspora for quite a number of years and experienced some exceptional customer service with my financial providers, I was at pains to understand why Zimbabweans accept such shoddy service from the people whom we entrust with our hard-earned money.

The Zimbabwe Customer Satisfaction Index is at 64 percent. I am not very sure of the sample structure of this one. But I would lie to argue that I really don’t think this reflects the banking sector at all. What I have seen is utter disregard for the customer in most service industries with the exception of a few retail providers. Our banks need to change their attitude full stop.

According to www.bankrate.com“The most impressive banks these days will offer easy-to-use mobile apps as well as make their customer representatives available on the phone 24/7. In addition, the best banks in customer care score very well their mobile apps, ATM network and convenience of customer support hours and locations, among other factors. Some banks have scored high customer care ratings through effective implementation of mobile application systems, which are augmented by reliable human contact.

The Bank of America has earned accolades on how quickly customer problems can be solved. In South Africa, the African Bank and Capitec Bank continue to maintain positive customer satisfaction index in terms of their products that are strongly engrained in the minds of the consumers.

Our banking sector needs to go back to basics. Firstly, it is very important for Human Resource departments to relook at the way they conduct inductions.  It is important for every employee to be exposed to all departments and systems. In all banks al employees should be customer care savvy. According to Taylor Chastain, “Customer service should not be a department. It should be the entire company.” –

Secondly there is a need for a genuine customer tracker surveys among all banks conducted by reputable firms. In the same breath research firms should take the bull by its horns and conduct a consolidated annual survey.

Finally, I would propose an undercover boss type of immersion in branches for top executives to feel how lower management employees and clients feel. That way they will be able to make well informed decisions. I will sign off with my favourite Customer Care quote by Hazel Edwards ”Ease your Customers Pain.”

◆ Joseline Sithole is a Business Development Consultant. This was first published by the Business Weekly.