Of Bank Transactions, Customer Experience and Grievance Channeling in Nigeria

By Emmanuel Nwachukwu

I have seen a lot of complaints relating to bank transactions especially Automated Teller Machines (ATM) and POS related issues, especially during weekends and public holidays around festive seasons.

It could be traumatic if your ATM card gets trapped in a machine, you are debited without getting the cash and no instant reversal is made – especially if the said funds are what we call ‘the last card’. I would be surprised if any bank customer, even the rich ones, could say he or she is yet to experience this trauma.

Although most banking transactions often happen smoothly and the failure rate hovers between 11 and 18 percent (NIBSS), the experience of a failed transaction could be excruciating. Tales are abound!

I have lost my ATM cards a few times to ATMs in my few years of card use and the loss I felt in all those times was not funny. Having to go through the remaining part of the days without the funds I had sought and deferring all the plans I had laid out for myself on those days, I had to go to my bank, filled forms to hotlist the cards,  paid for another card before I could be reissued with another one.

Nowadays, although we do not have to wait for so long to have our cards replaced, courtesy of the ‘wait-and-take’ ATM card policy of most banks, we have to deal with the trauma of deferring our plans to the time we can access the banks.

With several options available to me including ATM cards, Bank App, among others. I hardly make any fuss going to the bank to make transactions during banking hours. I had always had recourse to my ATM card, despite the occasional hitches, until my last bad experience with the ATM.

It was on the eve of the last Salah holiday and I was busy in the office all through the day, hoping to make a quick withdrawal at the closest ATM around the corner on my way home. After waiting a while for my turn, I slotted my card but the machine’s indicator light continued flicking as if it were waiting for a card. It did not recognise my card. My card was gone.

Hopeless and helpless, I left the machine. All the plans I had set for the long weekend were jeopardized. My friends could not help with CASH as all they could do was to send money but of what help could that be as I would need my card to make the withdrawal. I went to Twitter to rant, called out Ecobank, my bank, Sterling Bank that owns the ATM, Nigeria and so on.

Luckily, someone who also banks with Ecobank replied and sent me a link on what to do to ameliorate my predicament. When I opened the link, it not only informed me of what to do, but also made me realize that Ecobank, a and all Nigerian banks, have put in place a robust customer service department to handle complaints, inquiries and grievances. Sadly, many bank customers are unaware of these measures and always run to the public space, especially to social media, to call out the banks.

From the information contained in the link, I found out I had many channels I could reach the bank to either report my grievances to have them resolved. I saw a list of customer care phone lines, email addresses, Twitter handles, Instagram pages and so on that could be of immense help to me in such situations. I also saw some of the measures Ecobank (and I know other banks as well would have similar measures) has put in place to ensure transparency and efficiency in customer service delivery.

I must confess I didn’t even know Ecobank’s official twitter handle but through my rant and the conversation it generated, @ecobank_nigeria picked up my grievance and responded in a matter of hours. The truth is that if I had as much as tweeted at the bank’s official twitter handle, I may have had an earlier resolution of my challenge. They, too, sent me a step-by-step way to assist me in my situation.

Apart from providing channels through which customers could report transaction issues in line with the Central Bank of Nigeria directive, Ecobank even goes further to provide customers, who wish to report a complaint with the bank complaint letter template to simplify the process. It was a relief when the customer Care Department of the bank sent the template to me, which I printed out, filled, scanned and sent back to them. They took it up from there and told me to come to any of their branches to pick up a new card the first working day after the festival.

This unfortunate incident, though traumatic, taught me a lot of lessons, chief among them is the need for customer training which I had at the time although I never realized it.

Prior to this incident, I had seen all those emails and attachments the bank sent to my email as a distraction and paid no attention to them. For example, I never knew I could have transferred the amount I needed by using the USSD code *326#, using my phone, to people around me, who would have gone to pick up the cash for me.

I could also have shopped by making use of the same code *326#, using my phone. Until this incident, I did not know how important it is to memorize the last four digits of my ATM card number.

Furthermore, I realized the importance of installing and utilizing the bank’s app which I could have installed on my phone. My predicament would have not been as stressful as it was if I had taken advantage of the various information the bank sent my way.

I acknowledge that failed banking transactions could be traumatic, and customers in any of these situations have the right to complain. I also agree that they should complain and be heard. It must be mentioned that a good number of customers face lapses from the banks, ranging from unauthorised transactions, poor customer service, unfair charges and many more, however, most of the complaints are not usually well channeled.

The fact is that there are times when the failure is due to a systematic error or through a third party like the communication networks or the interbank issues, proper education comes in handy in knowing the proper channels to direct these grievances for speedy and efficient resolution.

As the world celebrates the 2019 Customer Service Week (October 7 – 13), customers need to realize that they have a role to play in ensuring that they get the best of service delivery through a deliberate effort to get trained on the best way to channel their grievances in times of less-than-satisfactory customer experiences.

Nwachukwu, a marketing communications consultant, writes from Lagos. He tweets from @emma_dele

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan. Mr Olowookere can be reached via dipo.olowookere@businesspost.ng

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