Tuesday, September 16, 2008

You can't "bank" on these people....

It is uncanny how certain jarring experiences in my life make me restart writing my blog after a long sabbatical. I guess such experiences jolt me out of my slumber and make me want to get off my lazy bum and actually do something.

Now, me being part of a respectable organisation in India, have been provided with a salary account with ICICI bank. This account has numerous "special" benefits, unlimited use of interbank ATMs all across India being one of them. This, on the face of it, looks like a great benefit. But in reality, it turned out anything but that for me.
On that fateful day, 30/08/2008, I had stepped out to make a high value purchase for myself. After I was done buying the said item, the shopkeeper announced that I would be charged a 1.5% surcharge on purchase by a debit card. Now people of my caste are often said to be extremely "careful" with money.(Misers would be a better way to put it right?;-)) I am no different. In order to save that 1.5%, i ventured into the nearest ATM in order to withdraw the requisite amount in cash.

Now the ATM was a HDFC machine. Since I had the so called priviledge of free interbanking, I didn’t even think twice before entering my card in the machine. After punching in my code and the 5 digit amount required, I waited for quite a few uneasy seconds till the machine did its thing. In the end, all I got was a message on the screen saying "Sorry! Transaction timed out" I didn’t get any cash in my hand. Now, just on a hunch, I checked my balance, I checked my balance and it showed the said amount debited to my account even though I had received no cash in my hand. In horror, I rushed out and told the guard there that such an incident had occurred. He assured me saying that "Happens. It’s a machine. It will get reversed" With not much choice left, I left the ATM.

After arranging for cash to purchase the item I had selected, I rushed to my neighbourhood ICICI bank branch and told them what had transpired. Very cooly, I was told to call the customer care number as the branch was only meant for CASA (current account and savings account). No customer complaints could be handled there. They didnt even have authority to call the customer service from their own telephones!!!I huffed and puffed and called the said number. There my complaint was noted down and I was told very nicely that it would take 8 working days for me to get my money back. I thanked the guy, grunted and cut the call.
Couple of days later, on my mother's insistence, I read the various papers ICICI had given me after opening the account. There, in very small print, was written that the bank cannot be held responsible for any discrepancies involving interbanking transactions.

Which brings me to the question that do all these private banks provide customers with so called “priviledge” services only to shake their hands off any trouble that comes their way? Their system is designed in such a robust way that once a discrepancy occurs, the customer is completely at the bank’s mercy for getting his compliant resolved. That’s not what I was taught in marketing under CRM i.e. Customer Relationship Marketing. CRM looks to keep the customer delighted with the service and make sure he remains your customer. Well, I am on the verge of closing one of my accounts with ICICI. So their CRM has resulted in making me a disgruntled and visibly angry customer. Quite the opposite of what they set out to do.

Now what if someone was in dire need of money and the machine had acted the same way with him? What would that poor chap have done? Account would have no money and no money in hand as well. NO CRM in the world would have got him to do business with the said bank again! You simply cant' "bank" on any bank anymore is what I feel.

I feel, the more we shift towards machines, the more complex our lives and errors in them are going to become.
But as they say all is well that ends well. I got my money back after about 8 days. But the moral of the story remains; I shall never use my card for an interbank transaction again. And the best part is, I wrote this entire blog on the very item I had stepped out to purchase when this whole rigmarole happened. My spanking new Nokia E71. But then that, is a subject of another post….