Addressing The Woes Of Customers

 

Hira Bahadur Thapa

 

A frequently heard observation that a customer, whether of a shopping mall or an organisation like bank, is always right has become debatable at least in the context of our country, where we are seldom treated as if we deserved attention from the service providers.

This notion that any customer can do no wrong may not be accurate in all situations, but the conventional wisdom is that generally they are right and thus should be respected taking their concerns on the subject seriously.

In Nepal it may not be fair to say that all customers in all working places or shops are mistreated, but the wide impression among us is that we do not find the same behaviour as we experience when we visit the developed nations. One may reasonably argue that there would be differences in our ways of handling the customer service because of our lack of attitudinal changes.

 However, given the increasing level of literacy and our increasing familiarisation with the outside world and the impact of expanding globalisation to which Nepal cannot be an exception, one feels that we should have changed ourselves and behaved as those of our counterparts in the developed world do.

Of late Nepal has had quite a good number of privately-owned and managed financial institutions, including several banks, some of which have joint ownership (public-private partnership). With the operation of such banks like The Himalayan Bank and Nabil Bank, both of which are the pioneers in the modern banking sector, the notion of public-private partnership has been successfully brought into fore and has also introduced digitisation and started providing quick and efficient services to the customers.

The working approach of the above-mentioned banks attracted many of us to their services and indirectly this wave helped many other private banks into the Nepali financial market and created a kind of pressure on the public banks including Rastriya Banijya Bank and others to improve their working methods.

To some extent Nepal Bank Limited, Nepal’s premier bank, and predominantly government owned Rastriya Banijya Bank have changed in terms of their services provided to their customers although a lot is required before these banks can be compared to some of the best-managed private banks like Nabil Bank or The Himalayan Bank, among others.

If I, as a government pensioner, whose pension account is maintained in Rastriya Banijya Bank, Gaushala branch, is to speak my mind about my impressions of the bank’s operation judged from the way we have been cashing our cheques, I am hardly satisfied though all the working staff members in charge of the counters in the above bank are doing their best to serve us.

The question is not that the bank employees are not honest, but the real problem is related to managerial aspect, which the top authority of the bank has to deal with. The Gaushala branch of Rastriya Banijya Bank is comparatively busier and therefore needs better management of the working staff and the space available to the office.

There is no coupon system, and all the customers with cheques to cash are compelled to stand in queues for as long as an hour at the minimum to get the turn and this compulsion is torturous especially for the physically-handicapped ones or those who are older (70 years or above). This problem can be resolved to a greater extent without involving much cost on the part of the bank by simply introducing coupon system that removes the need for queuing up. Additionally, it enhances our productivity by not having to sit inside the bank idly, and using the available time for other task if one’s turn is not coming soon.

My recent experience in the Global IME Bank Limited is worth mentioning here as I am trying to give evidence of how customer-friendly have been our so-called best banks in Nepal.

The Baneswore branch of that bank is the nearest to my residence and hence my first choice for banking transactions. Being one of the oldest account holders of Global IME, I have my own painful stories to tell, which is due to the negligence of the employees, who are very smart to pass the buck to their headquarters, but are less effortful to see that my problems are addressed.

Let me give an example of receiving a new cheque  book when my old one was exhausted. When I approached the Baneswore branch, they asked me to go to Pani Pokhari, the corporate branch where I opened my account before Global Bank came into operation following its merger with then IME, a financial institution.

If any customer, who has opened an account in that bank’s branch in Kusma, and has come to Kathmandu in connection with his work and coincidentally needs a new cheque book, will be told to go to Kusma for collecting the new book. How practical is it?

In this age of growing internet connectivity, when all the bank branches have been using computers they can have access to any customer’s accounts, irrespective of the place where the account was opened. How does the argument of the bank become logical to deny the cheque book by any branch only because the customer had not opened his account in that branch?

Moreover, there are some issues like offer of new facilities to the new account holders, which the bank (Global IME) has aggressively advertised but does not sincerely fulfill the commitments it made when the customer was persuaded to open an account in which the account holder is constrained to maintain a balance of minimum amount (25000 NPR for then NARI BACHAT). This relates to giving 50% discount to the customer in accessing to bank’s locker services. The bank stops giving this facility although its document proves that the policy on discount on the above subject has remained unchanged.

Fortunately, this scribe had a chance to meet the top echelons of the above bank recently and apprise them of the above problems. They have assured to take possible endeavours to resolve them, which, if translated into action, would uphold the principle that “Customer is always right”.

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