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September 20, 2018

Have banks abandoned business?

Central Bank of Kenya./COURTESY
Central Bank of Kenya./COURTESY

In 2014 Ernst & Young released the results of a global study they had conducted into the nature of customer experience in banks. In our region, they reported that more than half of the banking customers in Kenya cited bad experiences when transacting compared to a third of the global sample. The report cited problems with bedding in new technologies at a rapid rate, creating technical hitches for customers.

Many of us would now say that online banking and its associated technology has become more robust. But talking to colleagues in business, it’s still evident that banking experiences are far from ideal. The issue today seems not to be the technology, but the human interface. Service realities just don’t meet the promises made.

For many banking brands, the situation looks worse than mere advertising hyperbole. Bankers no longer seem interested in facilitating business activity through timely access to funding or to financial instruments.

In Kenya, the situation has definitely worsened since President Uhuru Kenyatta took the step of capping interest rates in September 2016. To be honest, who could blame him for enacting such a measure when his own Central Bank Governor Patrick Njoroge had made repeated requests for bankers to moderate their expectations of yield when dealing with an impoverished population and a constrained private sector?

Since the legislation was passed banks have made it increasingly clear to customers that they are only interested in business on their terms. They don’t state this overtly, but it is evident in the behaviour of their staff.

Two examples regularly cited are credit card and overdrafts.

Banks now seem to be demanding cash deposits before they issue credit cards. That turns a credit card into a debit card, doesn’t it?

And short term overdrafts are a thing of the past. Applications founder on the rocky shores of the ‘risk committee’, which demands collateral for every transaction. The days of evaluating customer worth and doing business accordingly are long gone.

Faced with an organisational unwillingness to do business, bank staff behave in the only way they know how. They plead a lack of empowerment, regret things have got much tougher and say there’s nothing they can do about the situation. Or they dodge the issue.

I recently heard of a customer who could get no answer from his relationship manager because ‘regretfully’ she was ‘in training all week’. Which only reminds me of the story of the oil spill in Mombasa Port many years ago. The spill went uncontrolled for many hours because the senior management team were all off site in an oil spill containment training workshop.

 

Chris Harrison leads the Brand Inside

www.thebrandinside.com

 

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