Our featured VIP blogger for this week is Loy Okezie and he'll be sharing on his experience with one of Nigeria's top commercial banks.
I remember those days I had to physically walk into a bank’s branch just to make an enquiry, a request or a complaint about my account and other bank-related issues.
Sometimes, I had to carry my lunch pack with me because I wasn’t sure when (or if) I’d finish with my banking transactions for the day. No kidding. During my University years in early 2000, I once spent the entire day at a bank during semester registrations.
No, I wasn’t homeless.
The problem was the huge crowd (mostly of students) coupled with the resultant long queues in the banking hall and premises which was too much for the customer service personnel then to handle. Oh, if only there was an easy way of making a simple enquiry about a banking procedure or doing other bank-related transactions back then, I wouldn’t have gone to and fro the bank several times. And when I gave up waiting at the bank any day, I would have to come back the next day and start all over again.
At that time, there were no reliable customer contact points to interact with the bank either via telephone calls or emails. After all, the GSM had just arrived but if customers needed to interact with their various banks, they had to physically go to their banks and painfully wait for long hours standing in long queues. How I cringe at the thought of this now. That was in the early ’00s.
Fast-forward to 2014 and majority of the banks now have customer care points to interact with their customers’ enquiries, requests and complaints via phone calls and emails.
Yet, in some banks, we still see long queues of customers, mostly for banking transactions that require a physical presence and in other cases for issues that could have been solved with a phone call, email, SMS or via the Internet without having to overcrowd the banking halls and premises.
Interestingly, First Bank of Nigeria, one of the leading banks in innovation and service delivery has gone several steps further ahead of the competition by enabling a number of technology-driven customer service products and features that now makes the bank more accessible to its customers at all times (24/7), across multiple channels and with multi-lingual support. Yes, language without borders.
Meet the all new FirstContact, initially launched in 2009, but now upgraded to a world-class, multi-lingual and interactive contact centre following the bank’s investment in the robust contact centre solution, the Avaya Aura Contact Centre (AACC).
The new contact centre now allows customers to make enquiries, requests or complaints in any of the 3 major languages in Nigeria — Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba — as well as in English and Pidgin languages.
With these additional language support, customers can call the contact centre — just like they could if they wanted to reach the customer care centre of a telecom service provider — choose their most preferred language while listening to instructions from the voice response and perform several bank-related transactions at a go. If they choose to speak with a customer service agent in any of the five languages, they would also be able to do so. These could be done either through their mobile phones or through the bank’s Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Self-Service option currently available in about 100 FirstBank branches out of its over 600 branches in different locations across the country.
FirstBank’s IVR Self Service option allows customers to carry out banking transactions such as listening to account balance, making intra and interbank fund transfers, making bill payments, hotlisting lost or stolen cards, stopping cheques, pre-confirming issued cheques as well as setting up SMS alerts for their accounts.
Although most of these services can be done via the bank’s website, FirstBank took customer service further by enabling Live Web Chat with its FirstContact representatives online directly from its website. Also, through a SMS short code (30012), the bank is able to provide information on bank-related enquiries and quicker access to banking services.
While I’m not a First Bank customer, I do have a first-hand experience of these customer service initiatives and think that they could make for a great banking experience for customers who use them.
Loy Okezie is the Author/Editor of Techloy.com.