Have banks failed in giving alternative channels to customers during pandemic

9 September 2021
3 minutes, 3 seconds

The current Covid-19 pandemic has opened up multiple opportunities for businesses to sustain and ensure they retain their existing customer base. One of the most important ways of doing it is to ensure the customer gets what he/she wants during this period.

While the retail chains opened up their stores in a limited way with all safety norms followed, they also looked at alternate opportunities how to serve the customers at their doorstep. This not only delighted the existing customers but opened up huge opportunities for the new customers to come into their fold. The most logical way of sustaining and improving the business. The Big Baskets, Amazons, even the local milkman, schools, colleges, our own Manipal Academy of BFSI switched over to an online mode of solution delivery!

In my earlier blog, I had highlighted how the banks can encash on this situation by migrating customers to ADCs (Alternate Delivery Channels) and still keep them happy. Unfortunately, the banks have missed the bus.

After the medical staff and the police personnel, it is the bankers who have been labelled the “Corona Warriors” serving the customers and the society. There are umpteen instances where the banking staff have tested positive while serving the customers and have even laid down their lives serving them. It is no mean gesture and they all need a big salute for their yeoman service.

While banks put their workforce to these kinds of risks, they should have ideally strengthened their alternate delivery channels, mainly the phone banking and the net banking channels. Let us not confuse online banking with these channels. Online banking is the one which a customer initiates the transaction himself/herself and the transaction is fulfilled at their end. There is no need for any phone banking or net banking support required for this.

Online banking is not just transactions. There are many queries which cannot get solved by customer logging into the system. There is some workforce required to attend to these queries. This is where the banks have actually failed.

If one writes a mail to the bank today seeking certain clarification or information, promptly he/she gets an automated reply which very politely says –“Thank you for writing, this is your reference number for the query. Due to the pandemic situation, we are working on minimum staff and the reply may take more than the normal time.“ And normal time is not defined under these circumstances. Customers have waited for weeks for the reply, which is yet to come. When the customer decides to escalate the matter, the escalated mail also meets with the same fate or reply.

Same is the situation when one tries to dial the “customer care” numbers available on the net or bank’s website. After the rigmarole of press 1 or 4 or 9 etc, one would tend to get lost in the maze and forget why he or she had called the customer care! At the end of it, the recorded IVR says, your wait time could be longer than the normal wait time as we are working on limited staff support and all officers are busy!!

The point I do not understand is why do banks risk the lives of the customer interface officers at branches, keep the branches open and do all banking transactions but not strengthen the online banking officers and provide more efficient and quick service. In fact, with the social distancing norms, the risks of community spread etc., being the most common points of discussion, banks would have been better off and the customers happier with these channels being robust and help their front office colleagues by lessening the burden of walk-in customers.