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Don’t bank on them

Preeti K Sharma's high hopes after entering a spruced up nationalised bank is shortlived as it turns out that its customer service is still not to be relied on.

india Updated: Jun 12, 2007 00:26 IST

I recently went to the branch of a large nationalised bank after months. As I entered, I noticed that the place had been spruced up. There were spiffy laminated counters with short glass partitions. A lady pleasantly asked me to take a token number from a machine and even produced the required form. I was impressed. How nice, I thought, that this behemoth is finally waking up to competition.

I finished filling in my form and heard an automated voice announce the token number and the counter to go to for the transaction. That is when I looked at my token and discovered that there were 50 numbers to go before mine would come up. I counted the number of counters and tried to calculate my waiting time. Six counters working meant that eight people would have to be attended at each counter before my turn. This would mean that in about half an hour I would be able to finish my transaction at the bank.

I had no idea how optimistic my estimate was. I had failed to consider the behaviour of the staff. After they dealt with one customer, each member of the staff behind the counter felt the need to relax. One drummed his fingers for a few minutes before pressing the button for the next token number. Another always got up from his seat. A third just sat and stared at her computer screen. Since she was sitting at the corner counter, I walked to take a look at what was so fascinating. The screen only had the logo of the bank on display. Clearly, she had perfected the art of looking busy while doing absolutely nothing. Two others felt the need to chat with each other after every transaction while the last person chatted with those who came to visit.

Which was the reason that it took about seven minutes to process approximately three token numbers at six counters. If observation is any guide, most people were making deposits and updating pass books — not the most complicated jobs around. While waiting and pacing about, I observed that the sole notice on the bulletin board was about an upcoming athletic meet for the staff.

Athletic meets are considered to be a motivational tool. But clearly the bank management was out of step with its staff. After all, how many staff members participate in events like the 100-metre sprint or the shotput? Probably only a handful. Management can increase participation by a simple strategy of introducing events such as a jack-in-the-box competition where whoever gets up from their chair the fastest wins. Or whoever can stare at a logo the longest while doing nothing wins. The management may just be astounded at the turnout for such events.