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South African banking in crisis - but you know that already

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South African banking in crisis - but you know that already

Banking is in crisis. No, I don’t mean bonus scandals, gambling with other people’s money, rate fixing, product mis-selling and evidence shredding. I mean scandalous disregard of customers, over-charging and take-it-or-leave-it service that only an entrenched cartel could possibly get away with.


For everyday banking scandals like this you don’t need to go to New York or London. Any branch of the big banks here in South Africa will do.

The local banking scandal of daily disregard for customers recently hit home via personal experience.


After a tough morning (including a funeral) I received a substantial cash payment and raced into a Standard Bank branch in Nicolway, Johannesburg, on my way to the airport to catch a Cape Town flight.


It was a branch, but it wasn’t a branch. They had no tellers. I was told (with a shrug) that I should drive somewhere else for teller service. Don’t laugh, but I later discovered this non-branch branch is actually a service centre.


I had no time to drive around. I phoned the bank’s call centre, then the escalations department, then the executive offices. That’s where I learned the branch was a service centre without basic services like tellers and a safe place to stow cash.


If I wanted to report this, I had to engage in a complex process that could only be initiated if I gave my ID number. They didn’t actually say the complaints department was on the 141st floor and there was no lift, but it was close.


I asked them to send a blank email so I could respond. I’m still waiting.


I raced off to Cape Town, worried about the cash stash I was carrying and fuming about the habits of highly ineffective corporations.


In another incident, my sister-in-law came from overseas for a visit. She popped into a bank to change some currency. An hour later we staggered out, shell-shocked.


The bureaucracy and paperwork were unbelievable. The assumption is that you are a criminal or might be. They even ask what you intend to do with your own money!


After the interrogation they charged commission of about R700. I suppose it’s better than slapping on the electrodes – but only marginally.


I don't want to discuss how loose usury legislation has to be to enable a cartel to get away with charges like this. What I will do is introduce the banks to a new concept – doing something helpful without charging exorbitant fees.


For free, here are four tips to help our banks:


  • Relentlessly pursue the goal of making it easy to do business with you. Kill the dumb things that frustrate customers. Reduce paperwork. Don’t keep people waiting.
  • Train staff to show basic courtesy. Fire them when they don’t. Ensure your managers inspire them to improve their service.
  • Give reality-checks to your 50 most senior people. Let them take live calls at the call centre and work for a while as a teller. Create ‘the undercover boss’ and get close to the punishment inflicted on your customers.
  • Give customers (and employees) free access to the top 10 senior executives when they have complaints. Publish their personal cell phone numbers!


Four steps will resolve our banking crisis. But don’t bank on it happening any time soon.

Last modified on Tuesday, 13 August 2013 11:58
Aki Kalliatakis

Aki Kalliatakis is the Managing Partner of The Leadership LaunchPad, a business focused on customer loyalty and radical marketing. Their work has broadened to include all aspects of service, marketing and sales, which are aimed at creating the highest levels of customer loyalty. Aki Kalliatakis assists companies to implement customized service and loyalty strategies, and is often invited to talk to various groups, and conduct seminars, workshops and training courses for his clients. They focus on better customer service and delighting your customers. They do this by delivering a credible consulting service in all aspects of customer relationships, customer management, customer loyalty and customer retention in a manner which delights and thrills clients and delegates.


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