Banks should wake up and smell IT

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AT about the same time that Econet Wireless was launching its ground-breaking EcoCash Savings product, an international bank was busy shutting down the accounts of scores of civil servants.

Apart from such an ill-informed move being a monumental public relations disaster, it shows how inflexible traditional bankers are.

I could fill pages on the sluggish service provision in the banking sector, particularly its bureaucratic nature and stiff upper lip approach. Try applying for an account if you want to really know what I am talking about.

A colleague just this last week declared on social media that BancABC had the worst customer service she had ever experience.

We are talking about the Bulawayo branch here and I have no qualms in naming and shaming them.

In my other life, some of you know that I am a public relations consultant and trainer.

I have vowed to expose poor customer care in organisations that claim to exalt excellence in their mission statement. The other culprits are fast-food chains.

Anyway, the facts are these: An August Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) monthly economic review report says major declines in deposits occurred at commercial banks which registered net outflows across all deposit classes amounting to $56,08 million during the same month.

Does that require a rocket scientist to know why this is so?

Banks seem to be stuck in the Stone Age of the business world and refuse to change with the times.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara in one of his inspired diatribes warned banks to adapt or die.

“Banks were trying to use us to fight EcoCash on their behalf,” Mutambara said.

“No, sorry, you cannot fight technology. You have to catch up, you have to develop a competing technology,” he said in his trademark bombastic style.

There you have it. Banks might have a clinical, squeaky clean outlook to their branches, but they suck on customer care.

Customers wait too long for service.

Tellers look and behave like bored accountants (sorry guys) and do not instil or motivate any confidence at all.

As a result, banks come very close to dentists when it comes to places I would rather avoid, the difference being, of course, they look after my money.

I hear you asking why I do not use the automatic teller machine (unyoni ntshantshaza)?

Well, that’s another long story.

It has taken my bank close to six months to issue me with a card just because my branch is in another city.

And worse still, the ATMs rarely have any cash in them!

I won’t name my bank in case they decide to take revenge and “swallow” my money.

I’m not stupid, neh!

Anyway, the fact remains that banks should be innovative and not restrictive.

It’s an open secret that our country is overbanked.

There is little difference between them apart from the branding (and loan offers) that makes one tell them apart.

Banks are fully aware that 80% of the people are in informal business, so why ask for a payslip as a hard and fast rule in the application process?

And we all know that most of the money in circulation is outside the formal system among so-called dealers.

The challenge should be to find ways of getting the unbanked into the system, not to turn away potential clients at the door with hard and fast rules!

Enter EcoCash into the fray with a revolutionary product and its battle stations for the dinosaurs.

The reality is slowly sinking in that the game has surely changed in complexion.

Why should I slave my day in a bank queue to deposit or withdraw money when I can do it via my cellphone?

It gets better (and worse for the banks).

Guaranty Trust Bank Plc (GTBank) in Nigeria announced recently that it had upgraded its social banking offering on Facebook to accommodate instant account opening.

Prospective customers would be able to open accounts and immediately get their account numbers while on Facebook, without having to visit any GTBank branch.

GTBank managing director Segun Agbaje, explained all potential customers had to do while on Facebook was fill the account opening form, upload their passport photograph and signature mandate and immediately get their account number.

Duh?

To quote my favourite business columnist Brett Chulu, the Internet has provided opportunities for business model innovation.

He goes on to say that business model innovation, at a basic level, involves coming up with a new way of organising a winning business’s internal processes to deliver a product or service. It’s that plain and simple.

Banks should wake up and smell the coffee, employ innovators and not data capture clerks. Put your money where your mouth is and invest in public relations and not merely in marketing. Marketing is about selling, PR is about reputation.


 Lenox Mhlanga is a social commentator
 Twitter: @lenoxmhlanga