Commercial Banks: Customers Taking A Backsiding!

Over the last three or so years, the Jamaican Customer, of all the major Banking entities here, has been taking a beating, on their banking activities, which has resulted in diminishing savings, stagnant interest rates, and very Poor customer service, which is now so bad, it’s like a case of back-to-the-dark ages of Banking. 

In recent times, Commercial Banks have been bombarding their Customers with the need to be Facta-Compliant, etc, ergo request for new documentation that never seems to be fulfilled despite being attended to; and or lectures about prepping for the Digital Banking Age, by their reducing in-house Customer Service to the barest minimum.

To hasten their plan to go digital, little or no planning seems to have gone into making the new Digital banking age, Customer friendly as since the drive towards digitalization, it now takes more time and energy to access basic banking services, as the system is so backward, it takes the better part of an hour these days, to complete any in-house transaction.

In their rush to maximize profits, Banks not only shut down crucial branches, and sent home staff, (So now chronically suffer from Staff shortages on the frontline), but also shut down a number of what used to be common-place in-house services, but have seemingly embarked on a campaign to actively discourage Customers from Entering their premises. And when Customers foolish enough to enter these glorified time-wasting centers, are treated with such scant regard and intemperate disrespect, they are frustrated into not returning.

And forget trying to place a call to your “friendly-Banker”, you will find, your Friendly-Banker is not so friendly anymore, and if you do get through, to him/her, after fighting what seems like a swarm of angry bumblebee bees, of Off-Shore Call-centre Automatons, you might be met with a terse response to your innocent query, to affirm your status as an insignificant bit-player in their overall operational scheme. 

So Having  Been A Customer of CIBC Manor Park for upwards of the last three decades, I have seen Great Customer Service Firsthand, and I have seen the ugly underbelly of poorly trained and obnoxious petulant employees keen to put on display, their imagined power. It now seems clear that since the Departure of Mrs. Abbott, due to retirement; and Marianne Bacchas, (Transfer) and the more recent retirement of Mrs. MacDonald, the Branch has set itself a new task of menacing and or threatening its customers when they attend at the Branch for service.

Now, to show you how much they care, the powers that be at CIBC, recently spent millions of dollars to “Upgrade” the Branch with a new frontage, three ATMs that functions when they feel like it, and new kiosks for lowly tellers and cubicles for ‘managers’, with ‘lounges’ for those doing in-house business. Note, however, no restroom was included for customers. 

Move further from Manor Park to the Scotia Centre, down the way, on Constant Spring Road, Near Mary Brown’s Corner… Dont know if they have included Restrooms for their Clients, but they used to have a working drop-box that allowed customers to walk in make a drop-off and be out of that building in a flash. Now that Dropbox has not worked since sometime last year, and before that, it was also out of commission for the better part of 2022. So now Customers have to go in, to this possible Covid Incubator, and navigate some kind of weird numbering and lettering ticketing system in order to see a ‘Teller”, and this also takes the better part of an hour (on a good day) for a transaction that is completed after a few perfunctory minutes, when one’s number is finally announced. 

Dont know about you all, but before this digitalization, I never spent so much time in any bank passing time as if going to the bank is part of a new time-wasting industry, requiring one to queue for hours (sometimes) to complete some relatively easy transaction. 

Then there’s the business of their ridiculous banking hours. 

By and large, our Banks are 9-to-5ers, operationally. And are closed on Weekends, How practical is this to serve a population expected to be at work during those same hours? Have these people ever heard of flexi-hours? 

How about some banks adjusting their working hours to accommodate their customers instead of having these truncated hours, where the banks are jampacked because everyone is trying to get their banking done, during their breaks within their working hours?

How about staggering those hours say from 7:00 am to 1:00 pm’ and from 1:00 pm to 7:pm? 

And why not open those shuttered bank doors on weekends, if even for three or four-hour periods on Saturdays and Sundays?

Imagine opening up weekends to banking instead of shutting down cold turkey, and frustrating legitimate banking transactions, especially for those conducting business with entities in the Far East, Middle East, Africa, and other business centers who are not constrained by our petty banking operational restraints, but get cuckolded by our pedestrian operational framework?

Then there is the business of the banks now charging customers for merely walking in, punitively, with new and additional fees for everything, but no commensurate upgrade in service, interest rates, and or in-house hospitality. (The Water-cooler, in the last bank I attended, was out of order).

Imagined being menaced by a banking Officer in Manor Park, who physically stepped into my space to challenge me, and being challenged to a verbal duel by another, who clearly suffers from inferiority-complex stage one, (Acute), for merely seeking clarification on issues that were not! And it did not stop there, as the second officer had the temerity to send an email, Confirming her effrontery!

One thing is clear, so-called digitalization is a cost-cutting measure. It’s not about improving Customer Service Delivery (CSD), and all this talk about background checks and Facta compliance, for Customers, is all good and well, but shouldn’t all this begin with their own employees? Maybe this could cut back on in-house fraud! (Which, by the way, is grossly underreported). And anecdotal reports of Tellers Colluding with others outside of the Banks to stage robberies.

And what exactly is the BOJ’s role in all of this? Are there Guaranteed Standards and a Body to manage/Police these standards? And if Not, Why Not? Over To you Mr. BOJ, Governor!!


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