A couple of weeks ago, I paid a visit to my bank to raise a bank draft as payment for goods I planned to receive from a major Nigerian FMCG I distribute for. As I stepped into the banking hall I knew it was going to be a very ‘long thing’ to get the draft because of the large crowd of angry looking customers I met waiting to be served.
I joined the queue and noticed that the bank cashier was engrossed in a conversation with her colleagues, seems totally oblivious to the growing impatience of her waiting customers. I instinctively knew the bank was having some sort of system challenge and asked the dude ahead of me on the queue if he knew what was going on. His answer confirmed my fears…’They say their network is down’. Well, since it was important I submit the payment draft that day, I had no choice but to wait and hope the issue would soon be resolved.
As time passed so did our patience and after 2 hours comments like ‘stupid bank’ ‘all they know is to collect money from people’s accounts’ were being murmured audibly. The situation was not helped by the lack of reliable information regarding how long it would take to fix the problem, the seemingly lack of empathy by the bank staff and to make matters worse, the banking hall was unpleasantly hot as the few functioning air conditioners seemed incapable of addressing the amount of body heat being generated in the enclosed space.
It wasn’t long afterwards before we heard madam teller scream at the person in front of the queue in frustration, ‘Madam, I told you, the system is down. They are working on it and I do not know when they will finish. If you can’t wait, go and come back later’. The crude nature of this response was too much and several angry customers confronted her with some harsh words, which she proceeded to respond to in kind with more venom. Before long it was a shouting match with almost everyone getting involved.
‘Is this a bank?’ someone said aloud and I couldn’t but wonder how a financial institution registered on the Nigerian Stock Market could offer such crappy service in today’s digital age.
An hour later (3 hours and 25 minutes after I walked into the bank) and the system came back online to cheers from the waiting customers and smiles of superiority from the staff. It was a scene reminiscence of people shouting ‘Up NEPA’ when the electric authorities provided power in the late 80ies. I heard ‘Next customer’, walked over to the counter and the cashier said ‘Yes!’. ‘No greeting, no apology for the delay…. Nothing’. So, I handed over my cheque with the instruction to issue a draft clearly written behind it. She looked at the cheque, scrutinized my handwriting and signature, then smiled suddenly and responded ‘Your cheque leaf is old and not NUBAN compliant’. At this point, all I could say was which one is NUBAN complaint again now?. She completely ignored my response and went on to narrate one long story about bank policy which I didn’t even hear. I was livid and let her know in very clear terms what I thought about her, the bank and all their policies. As my voice grew louder, the Branch Manager appeared from her high tower to calm the storm. ‘It is now this one knows she will appear. ‘Rubbish!’ exclaimed one customer. She apologized and instructed the cashier to treat my transaction. I then witnessed a miracle of biblical proportions as a transaction that was earlier impossible due to bank policy now became possible. I let out a big sigh of relief and waited humbly for the cashier to conclude my transaction. It took another 30 minutes before I was handed my draft and I rushed out of the banking hall before some other evil would rear its head.
On my way out, I could not help but wonder how most banks in Nigeria offered poor service. I mean it’s a no-brainer that excellent service is the hallmark of any successful organization regardless of their financial standing. Lost in thought, a gentleman interrupted my contemplation saying ‘the devil you know is better than the angel you don’t know. All banks in Nigeria are the same, they offer crappy service and debit you with hidden charges to grow their profit’. I smiled, shook my head and bid him adieu as I pondered on the truism of his words.
Last week, I accompanied a friend to a Zenith Bank branch to perform the same transaction, having introduced him to the distributorship business. Mentally prepared for another harrowing experience we cleared security and entered the banking hall. Banking halls are banking halls in Nigeria and I was expecting to be greeted by a large group of customers in a room where the air conditioning unit was not working. Oh! Was I wrong; the hall was well lit, quiet and the ambience was indescribable. The staff were professional and the transaction was done in record time. For the first time in a long while, I was reluctant to leave the banking hall and step into Lagos’s harsh sun. I began pondering what I had been doing putting up with the inefficiencies of my own bank for so long and asked what it would take to open a Zenith Bank account. The requirements were straightforward though I had to come back the next day with the documents I didn’t have on me then.
So, I’ve been a Zenith Bank customer for almost a week now and it’s nice knowing some banks are aligning with international best practices in service delivery. To my old bankers, I say…Yes, Good Service does matter. Please don’t call me… I’m going to my Zenith.
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Senate Orders CBN To Suspend ATM Card Maintenance Charges, ATM’s To Dispense N40,000
The Senate has urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to look into the suspension of the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) maintenance and withdrawal charges by banks.
This was after a motion on “illicit and excessive charges by Nigerian banks in customers’ accounts” was raised by Senator Gbenga Ashafa during the plenary session on Wednesday.
Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu seconded the motion, saying: “The ATM charge is not the only charge we get from the bank, there are VAT charges and so on; this is unacceptable. We have the Customer Protection Agency in Nigeria, but they are not living up to expectations.”
The issue generated much debate on the floor of the Senate and after much deliberations, a few resolutions were made.
The Senate directed the committees on banking insurance and other financial institutions and finance to conduct an investigation into the propriety of ATM card maintenance charges in comparison with international best practices and report back to the Senate.
It also mandated the committees on banking, insurance and other financial institutions and finance to invite the CBN Governor to appear before the body in order to explain why the official charges as approved by the CBN are skewed in favour of the banking institutions as against the ordinary customers of the banks.
The lawmakers urged CBN to suspend the ATM card maintenance charges being deducted from customers accounts, just as they called on the CBN to instruct the commercial banks to configure their machines to extend to N40,000 per withdrawal, pending the outcome of the investigation by the committees.
The Consumer Protection Council was called upon to be up and doing in taking up the plight of ordinary Nigerians by looking into the various complaints of excess and unnecessary charges by Nigerian banks.
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