Sunday, December 19, 2010

Good and Bad Banks

Hi Maria Ramos, Chief Executive of Absa Bank,
          As you may or may not know I give Good and Bad Services Awards. Unfortunately the bad far exceed the good so it’s a pleasure to be able to balance things up a bit.
          This letter is only about praise. Makes a change doesn’t it coming from the number one critic of everything under the sun.
          I must apologise for being a bit late but as my wife will tell you Last-minute-Charlie is my nickname, but this really needs to be done in time for Christmas. If you are still in a quandary as to who to give bonuses to I have the answer.
          Why not set a wonderful precedent by forgoing you usual fat bonus this year and get your fellow chiefs to do the same. Then spread the money your bank would have spent around to the most deserving employees on the ground as it were.
          In your lofty office in Johannesburg you may not be aware Maria of the exceptionally good things that are happening at the other end of the country in Cape Town’s Deep South. There the staff at your Long Beach Mall branch are a pleasure to do business with, a Great Pleasure.
          They are charming and delightful; a shining example of service at its very best. To the tellers and the staff at the inquiry counter my wife and I are not just a number. We are people who always get greeted by our names and even when we pass one of them outside the bank we can rely on getting a cheery greeting by name.
          Nothing beats being recognised especially in today’s business environment, where the personal touch has long since given way to SMSs, emails and call centre voices from faceless people who wouldn’t know a customer if they saw one.
          Being a man I’m ashamed to say that all  the people I am talking about are  female. And I also have to confess that I believe that women knock spots off men if there are any Good Service Awards to be won. They are so much more caring. They would have to be otherwise my wife would not have put up with me for the last 90 years and I would have been put down at birth.
          Here are their names: Tina Goldberg, Zayaan Adam, Wendy Katnis, Berhadine Christian, Isobel Riley, Shona Herbst and Tamsyn King. And Shona is expecting a baby boy early in the new year so she needs a special bonus more that most people.
          So please do the right thing Maria and see that these ladies get what they deserve because I’m sure that their salaries fall far short of the prestige that their brand of public relations is bringing to your bank.
          Happy Christmas Bonus Paying to the Very Deserving cases.
          Regards
          Jon, a Most Impressed Client. 

*     *     *

Dear Michael Jordaan, Chief Executive of First National Bank,
          Oh Michael, I can’t believe it. You came out tops in my first Good and Bad Service Awards because of the prompt way you answered my emails. And now one of your branches has really blown it.
          But you must admit that I told you some time ago that all was not well at the FNB branch at the Long Beach Mall. I closed my FNB account after more than 20 years because of my first few experiences at this branch after I moved from Johannesburg to Cape Town about two years ago.
          Since then my wife and I have been forced to go into that branch occasionally to make deposits for other people. When I have been there the Inquiry Counter has been manned by a notice on it saying Please go to the next counter. The excuse is always that the lady is out to lunch, powdering her nose or you can take your pick.
          You would think that it would not be much of a problem to have sufficient deposit slips avail at a bank. But at this branch they are like R500 notes which our Reserve Bank hasn’t yet got around to printing.
          I was at the branch on about 10 November looking for a deposit slip. All I could find were funny bits of paper that could have been made by the manager’s five year old child as part of a school project. A woman staff member walked past me so I asked her where I could get a proper deposit slip. In keeping with the branch’s general philosophy she told me that wasn’t her job and walked away. 
          These slips would have disgusted even Monopoly players as they didn’t have a section for the name of the person I was paying.  The woman who appeared to be in charge of the branch explained to me that they kept running out of genuine deposit slips because clients walked out with piles of them so as to avoid paying for deposit books.
          Other banks I’ve dealt with don’t seem to have this problem, Michael. Could it be that your deposit books are totally over priced?

          When my wife went to the branch on17 November the deposit slip story hadn’t changed. Only this time there was a new twist. She arrived early hoping to be one of the first in the queue to be greeted by a notice saying that as the branch would not open until after 9.30 am clients should go to the Fish Hoek branch. This just happened to be about 10 kilometres away. My wife hung around the Mall and the branch did finally open after 9.30.

          What’s going on Michael?  Surely if you run a branch on a shoestring you can only end up with all your clients walking down to the other end of the Mall where the staff at Absa bank will be only too happy to welcome them. If I’m not mistaken that bank opens at 8.0 am in the run up to Xmas.
          Sorry to spoil your Christmas, Michael,
          Yours faithfully
          Jon

Buy my book 'Where have all the children gone?' on Amazon.com It's a thriller with an underlying love story that defied generations of prejudice.

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