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The nitty-gritty reason that banks need to install customer-number machines

13 января 2012, 17:59

Banks in Kazakhstan need to pay more attention to customer service.

Time and time again, I get the impression that banks here are run for the convenience of the management and not customers.

And with rare exceptions, the situation hasn’t changed in the five years I’ve been in and out of the country.

I’ve become so exasperated about it that I’ve decided to write about some of the problems. My hope is that bankers will read my blog and make changes. It would be a godsend to thousands of people in Kazakhstan.

This blog is the first installment of several I’m going to do outlining the problems, and the simple way each problem can be fixed.

The first step that banks could take to become more customer-friendly would be to install customer-number machines. These are the machines that dispense a number to a customer who has just entered  so she knows where she stands in line and approximately how long it will be for her to get served.

The only alternative to the number machines is a Soviet system that is guaranteed to increase customers’ blood pressures and even to start an argument or a fight.

You know what I’m talking about:
Customer who has just entered the bank: “Who’s last in line?”
Already arrived customer: “I am.”
Entering customer: “I’m after you then.”

There are numerous problems with this stupid system, one of which is an already arrived customer saying to another customer: “I’m going out for a while. Please keep my place in line.”

When the guy who left returns a full 30 minutes later after smoking an entire pack of Marlboros, then positions himself ahead of others, an argument often breaks out. That’s to be expected, because many people who have been patiently waiting in the queue believe the returnee is a newcomer trying to jump the line.

When a queuing system pits customers against each other instead of helping them, then it is customer abuse and not customer service.

My friend Jack experienced the ultimate abuse that the Soviet queuing system dishes out to bank customers. He nearly got into a fistfight with a bank security guard.

Jack was waiting in line to make a Western Union payment to a cashier at a bank near the intersection of Dostyk and Shevchenko Streets in Almaty.

Only two of the four cashier’s windows were manned, so there was a jam-up of customers in the room. The average wait for service was an hour or more, and you could feel the tension as those who waited became more irritated, Jack said.

To make it more difficult to know who was where in line, customers did not actually form a queue, but just sat or stood about the room.

During Jack’s wait, two men came into the room at different times, eyed the jam-up, then took a position just in front of the cashier – which meant they would be served next. When other customers objected, the two said they had been in the room earlier and someone had been holding their place for them. Uh huh – sure.

Jack had not seen either man during the entire hour he had been in the bank, so he was seething about what he was certain was line-jumping, but he said nothing.

When the person whom Jack had told “I’m next” walked up to the cashier to be served, Jack assumed the position next to the cashier window so he could be served next.

At that point, another guy in the room began yelling that Jack was line-jumping.

Jack had waited more than an hour for service, was irritated and was not going to budge from his next-to-the-window position.

The objector made such a fuss that a bank security guard told Jack to give up his position to the guy doing the screaming.

Jack refused, and the security guard made the mistake of grabbing his arm and shoving him toward a seat in the room.

Jack is a big guy and, despite the gun on the security guard’s hip, Jack balled up his fist and pulled it back in the air ready to land a blow. Thankfully, other men jumped between the two.

By this time, Jack was screaming curses at the security guard and wadding up the Western Union paper in his hand and flinging it in the guard’s face.

You can decide for yourself whose behavior was worse – the security guard’s or Jack’s.

But the point of this story is that the confrontation was avoidable. It was a direct result of that bank not having a customer-number machine, a simple and cheap system for ensuring that customers are served in the proper order and that no ne’er-do-well can cheat others out of their place in line.

So, my banking-executive friends, my first recommendation for improving your customer service is: Install one of those number machines in every one of your branches.

Those machines are mainstays in banks in the West where, in all my decades of banking, I’ve never seen a line-jumping dispute.
The machines also can be the difference between customer service and customer abuse.

Gentle readers, let me close this blog by inviting you to comment on bank customer-service horror stories you’ve had. I’d like to hear from you – and so would a lot of other bank customers.

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