Banging oneself against a brick wall, who can reply to your call?

August 5, 2006

Peter Drucker, the father of management had said once that the purpose of the company is to create a customer. One also gets to hear about CRM(customer relationship management) and how customer-centric companies pull out all stops to woo the customer. However, it is still not uncommon to come across instances when the individual is helpless against shoddy treatment by the “powers-that-be” for want of a better expression i.e the customer is far from being the king on many occasions.

My Bank is a very reputed and well known private bank. We have a joint family with me,my brother, our wives, our parents and last but not the least, the HUF(Hindu Undivided Family)accounts. At the time of opening of the accounts, We were earlier banking with a nationalized bank.

This was going to be our first expereince of internet banking. In our family, one person is in put  charge of monitoring all the accounts. Since it was not practical to shove in 10 user-ids and 10 passwords to know what the balance was in each account, I requested the bank that since they had a linking facility already, they should give us a group code so that all the balances can be seen in one shot on the screen and printout taken out when necessary. A summary on one page facilitates planning when required.

The branch manager gave a typical govt deparment like answer which one normally expects from a nationalized bank ” We cannot do that because that is against the rules”. I told him that there is a time to apply rules and a time to play a role and requested him to do the needful. When he persisted with his argument, I told him that all the members will give power of attorney to one member and he should be therefore authorised to see the accounts. Now, with a power of attorney, one can also operate the other person’s accounts and so not allowing to see them would be like putting the cart before the horse.

Knowing that he was cornered, the branch manager wrote to his head office. The head office gave a typical nationalized bank reply that it could not be done because that facility was for a different purpose. This was one and a half years back. Now we have a second branch manager. Both the people have admitted that their head office does not have common sense and expressed their inability to do anything in the matter. They also had a “customer interaction” exercise where I tried to prevail upon their “senior managers” but except for smiles and “sir” I got nothing. I told them I don’t want “Sir” but “Service” or in hindi “Sir nahin chaahiye, kuch “asar” hona chahiye”. I told them about how the great CEO, Lee Iacocca wanted everything one one page but I might as well have been talking of coca- cola. I even tried poetry:-

Tum kahte sahte ho sir

Kub hoga kuch asar

Is tarah mushkile hai karna basar

Tumne pareshan karne me koi nahin chodi hai kasar

Yeh nainsafi hai saraasar.

Except for smiles and sir I didn’t get anything and one cannot keep changing banks because with the new bank it could be old wine in new bottles. I had met a representative of another bank too who was open to the idea of watching multiple accounts on the same screen but refused to do the same for dmat accounts because that was something “different”. When I pointed out to him that dmat was nothing but a bank of shares and how he could not give a certain facility for a savings account and not give the same facility for dmat which representated a substantially a higher sum, he just smiled sheepishly.

Even in their software, they did not have the ex-dividend date. I tried to prevail upon them the customer viewpoint. Many brokers in India try to keep the dmat shares in their own account at the time of ex-dividend date and the dividend gets credited to their account. The customers are not even aware of it. They agreed to a need for a dividend tracking facility also after a great deal of argument when I finally managed to prevail upon them that dividend could be received from a donkey number of companies and it could be administratively cumbersome to monitor them.

My father, a chartered accountant and financial controller, has always been of the opinion that “Bankers do not have common sense”. Though this need not be true for everybody, one is also reminded of the statement “Common sense is most uncommon”. It can be really frustrating at times. In our local club, they have this strange system where individual coaching for Tennis(implying one hour only to one person) to even a member’s child is not allowed in the evenings. How can the child play early morning for one hour and go to school?He would be too fatigued to concentrate. Arguing in such situations can often be like banging your head against a brick wall.