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Service with a lie

A few weeks ago I accompanied a close relative to a commercial bank in Bridgetown. She commented that she usually has to wait very long in the line and since we had a lot of catching up to do she felt that it would be a good idea for me to accompany her.

As we waited in line chatting, she was telling me of her recent trip to London and Europe. Just as she was about to tell me about Paris it was our turn to approach the teller. We both went forward to the available window and greeted the nice young fellow.

My friend was travelling on to Trinidad to visit some friends she had not seen since law school and was returning in a few days so she only wanted US $200. While she was showing the teller the requisite documents I chanced to notice that another bank employee whose desk was located immediately behind the teller was listening to our conversation. I also noticed that she was holding her pen hovered above a set of what appeared to be an adding machine listing attached to a set of vouchers.

Since the pen was motionless, I realised that she was focusing on the frivolous conversation the teller was having with us or rather the other way around. After completing the initial activities, the teller went off to get the currency and on returning we realised that he had brought two $100 bills.

Well we all know that Trinidad currency is not accepted here and if she goes to pay a taxi she will be given that currency in return. So with one accord we asked the teller if she could be given smaller bills (that is, if they had it).

All of this time my eyes were on this employee who on over hearing the conversation suddenly got up and walked behind the teller as he was returning to exchange the money and whispered in his ear. He promptly returned and told us that he was told that it was “against Central Bank regulations to give us smaller bills”.

Just for clarity, let me repeat, we were purchasing the currency from this bank. We know this was not true but just in case we called up the Central Bank the same day and was told that this was not true. My friend was very disappointed as she left the next day all she kept saying was “of all the countries that she has visited none of them had reached the depth of poor quality service like home”.

Although I urged my friend to write a letter of complaint to the bank manager all she kept saying was “they are all the same” — it is truly sad. The article this week is about the impact of poor service on customer satisfaction.

Let me first provide a definition of customer service as a starting point, not that you do not know what it is, but just in case like me you have not seen or experienced it for so long that you need a reminder. According to customer service is “the service that is provided to customers before, during and after purchasing and using goods and services”.

In other words, it entails doing your upmost to provide the customer with an experience that meets or exceeds the customers’ expectations. The customer should leave the organisation with a good feeling about the experience and not feel like they had been physically abused or in any way slighted as was the case in the opening vignette.

You see, bad or poor customer service can result in many customer complaints, loss of sales or loss of customers. In this particular case, there is also an element of trust that the customer has in the bank which I believe does not include deception or openly lying or cheating the customer in any form or fashion.

This, I think, includes but is not limited to providing untrue statements about other establishments, in particular our esteemed Central Bank. I also believe that this trust should underpin the company’s policies and as such the employee involved should be subjected to some form of disciplinary action since customers and for that matter other employees (the poor teller involved) should be treated with dignity and respect at all times.

Moreover, unlike what presently exists in that particular bank (I refuse to tar all with the same brush), customer service means creating a bond with your client. This could lead to long-term relationships which this bank does not appear to want.

I am often of the impression that some employees believe that the organisation does not need the customer and hence their needs are not important. This could not be further from the truth because if the human touch is eroded then it is so much easier for them to be replaced by machines.

Besides, on an earlier trip to Europe, I noticed that teller positions are being replaced with machines and if this supervisor continues to mistreat customers and staff in this manner no amount of industrial action will save her job.

Furthermore, there is such a thing as corporate social responsibility, which equates to the role an organisation plays in society. Besides, management researchers have argued that “banking service quality … is the most influential factor for … customer satisfaction”.

Coupled with increasing profits, researchers are of the view that CSR includes “enhancing customer loyalty, trust” and reducing any negative publicity. It appears that although these strategies have been embraced by the international banking community our local banking group, (one in particular) seem oblivious to this (Senthikymar, Ananth & Arulraj, 2011).

Although internationally it appears that banks in general are experiencing an increasing number of customer complaints about interest rates and service charges, I have not found any research where a senior bank officer blatantly lied to a customer. What they have suggested is that customer word of mouth can have an astounding effect on customer loyalty and satisfaction (Australian consumer association, 2005).

I am sorry that the space allocated for this article does not allow further discourse in this matter, so in closing I will add that recent research is suggesting that customers are preferring more and more the “self serving initiatives” rather than humans.

Be warned Scotia Bank teller supervisor!!! Until next time…

* Daren Greaves is a Management & Organisational Psychology Consultant at Dwensa Incorporated. e-mail:, Phone: (246) 436-4215

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