Financial Service Delivery - Is it the people, the process or the technology?
The debit card incident...
I recently went to withdraw cash from my bank. After getting into the
banking hall I waited for my chance to withdraw I discovered that I had
forgotten my debit card at home. Instead I signed a withdrawal slip which I got
from the counter and handed it over to the teller. The teller refused to effect
the withdrawal insisting I use my card, she gave me an option to get the
withdrawal slip signed by the branch manager so that she could effect the
withdrawal. On talking to the manager she also refused telling me that it was
now the bank policy for all withdrawals to be done using a debit card. Despite my pleas to get cash she totally refused.
The internet banking episode
The second case happened to my brother who wanted to pay school fees using internet banking. After several tries he was having challenges logging in. He went to the bank to have the issue sorted. He was told that he had to reregister because they added more features to the internet banking platform. He tried to do it on his phone and couldn’t register. The teller at the enquiries desk tried to assist by letting him use the bank computer but still he couldn’t register. They escalated the issue to the manager who asked if he can use his machine but
still to no avail. When he asked how he is going to register in spite of these challenges he was told to keep trying because the system sometimes acts up.
The customer, the process and the technology
The above scenarios define the type of service delivery some customers are being subjected to, so is there anyone to blame: if there is, who is it?, what is the real underlying challenges with these institutions and when we say we are going digital do we really mean it or do we know what it really means?. Can we deny a customer a service and blame it on technology or strategy? Are these events mutually exclusive or they reflect was is obtaining on the ground.
Innovations in ICTs and changes in consumer patterns demand transformative channels and solutions that deliver, “anytime, anywhere and anyhow” services. Many FIs have been found wanting in terms of implementing new delivery channels. According to Alternative Delivery Channels and technology “many FIs lack the technical
knowledge or skills needed to successfully implement Alternative Delivery Channels. This includes not only the skills to manage the detailed implementation of ADC projects, but also the skills needed to navigate a competitive and crowded marketplace”. As DFS professionals we must always be aware who owns the customer experience and how it affects overall satisfaction.
Technology is meant to serve humans not the other way round. Technology is underpinned by hardware devices, software systems and processes that enable provision of digital financial services. The critical link then is the integration between the front end, bank end and core banking systems. These application layer solutions with the associated points of interaction at the network edge have been the source of challenges for most customers. All the above cases create challenges for the seamless access of the product or service, if the solution to the challenges in prolonged without better work around solutions it becomes a problem to give a meaningful explanation to customers. Customers will end up experiencing bad services and the circle of excuses is prolonged denying customers a better service.
Looking at what is happening on the ground it looks like the front end staff work on instructions only with no room to manifest customer challenges into real solutions which alleviate customer pain points. They seem not to care about the cost to the customer for coming into the branch and more so the cost of denial of service. The customer will most likely tell 3 to 5 people about that bad experience or even pour out that experience on social media. Sometimes partners in the provision of the service like 3rd party processors might let FIs down by overpromising and under delivering. They might be handicapped by infrastructure challenges or agreeing to targets they know they can’t reach just to get the job. At the end of the day the customer suffers and the staff
The FIs must provide financial products and services that are relevant and suitable to the needs of their customers. It is in their best interest then to monitor the suitability of their products and services, their processes, their staff and delivery channels. In the same vein there must also be an effective client complaints resolution mechanism in place to receive challenges and feedback on product performance. Clients must be informed of their rights to complain and be heard. Complaints resolution provides a gold mine for FIs to improve all aspects of service quality and manage the operations better. It seems the providers of financial products are not taking time to train their staff. Some staff members do not demonstrate customer service and product knowledge, maybe it’s a case of the principles existing only as literature stuffed away somewhere as procedures and manuals in cabinets because in practice that understanding is missing. Sometimes customers are victims of aggressive sales techniques which is directly related to the incentive structure of their sales
team. In Zimbabwe especially is Harare at every corner someone is trying to sell something and FIs have also joined this bandwagon. You will find sales team with branded t-shirts and caps trying to solicit customers for their next client to register usually the KYC lite card based accounts.
Customer services issues come in all sorts of ways which include taking long to reverse transaction anomalies, denial of service, unexplained charges, lack of information, cumbersome processes, failure to resolve issues, etc., the list is endless. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Consumer Protection Prudential Standards of June 2016, on obligations of regulated entities says that, “A regulated entity should conduct its business and interact with customers in a manner that will boost customer confidence”.
My biggest concern is the removal of this friction. No matter how much these FIs try to push customers to adopt these digital finance products or so called new technologies, if the support functions are weak it will not work. Intention means nothing results means everything. Banks and PSPs must remember that besides consuming financial products and services customers also consume significance. If that is out of sync with the implied meaning then there is a problem. The two scenarios highlighted above just get into the way of customer
services. In this day in age of Uber and “payments at the speed of light” we can’t be found wanting. The friction in the DFS space is hampering financial inclusion efforts. How can we even think of scaling into AI and block chain technologies if we are failing at the basic level of customer service? How do we begin to talk about consumer protection themes like fair treatment, transparency and disclosure, financial education, recourse and fraud prevention when the consumer is not even at the centre of the business strategy? Thus it is the people who have the power to get everything right from the technology, the processes and the people.