SBH ‘Explore’d

I hope you’ve read my earlier experiences with banks. I should be a tough customer for everyone; why else would I have a terrible experience with every bank? Or, may be my stay in ‘Customer Support’ arena for the last 8 years (all my career!) forces me to look at service in a different way.

You can access my earlier posts about Emotional banking, HDFC (here, here and here), UTI, ICICI, SBI and Credit card calls right on this blog.

This one is with State Bank of Hyderabad (SBH). This is the first bank I opened an account with, when in graduation. My dad and uncle wanted me to have an account of my own to start savings (I used to earn OK with tuitions and stuff back then) but the idea of showing off a cheque book was more appealing than savings, so I did open one.

I used it for a while, with not many issues. Until I got my first salary account (with all those free transactions, zero balance, ATM card and Internet banking), I thought standing in line for 20 minutes to withdraw Rs. 300/- was perfectly normal. Then I realized I didn’t have to keep track of the bank holidays and timings (10.00 am – 2.30 pm) anymore. So, I started using ICICI more than SBH. And then someday soon I had already forgotten I had an account with SBH. And then I discovered my ‘passbook’ in some old files.

I took it to the bank and inquired about the balance. By then, they had supposedly changed the account number format twice and it took 45 minutes in the line to get a new account number and passbook with dotmatrix print (It was pen and paper before). Yeah, everytime I asked to have my passbook updated with the transactions, they put the complete book in the printer. How kool?

Then I saw an advertisement on billboard or newspaper that SBH has come up with ATM cards. I had one from ICICI already but why not another one if I have an option? How kool would it be to flash two ATM cards when someone asks if I have a bank account, haan? So, I went to the bank and requested an ATM card for my account.

The first person I approached looked surprised and answered “We don’t have an ATM card for SBH! If you are so much into technology and advanced banking, you have to go to one of those corporate banks like ICICI, HDFC or GTB”. Yep, Global Trust Bank was one of the well known banks then, unfortunately no more now.

I wanted to talk to the manager. Not very surprised this time, I received the same answer from manager. I actually had to get the newspaper cutting and show him that SBH has an ATM card. I wonder how it happened that a branch manager had no information about it. He then inquired with some assistants and gave me an application form.

Six weeks later, I received the card and after another two weeks, and may be 5-6 visits to the branch, I got the ATM pin. All was well till April first week, 2006.

Two days before I left to US on a corporate trip, I lost my wallet. I lost all the ATM cards with some good amount of cash I saved to get new shoes and stuff. I managed to block the credit cards and ATM cards from other banks. Till today I didn’t even bother to visit SBH branch and/ or block the card, it’s almost 4 years now!

Today on my way to office, I saw a billboard that talked about “SBH Explore”. It’s a new face of SBH with all the corporate banking features. Wow, if the technology allows me to access my account without standing in line at the branch, I wanted to give it a try. I walked into office, opened a browser and searched for the URL. I didn’t have any luck at first but then I visited Wikipedia page to get the official site there. And guess what? I see this message below. Cheers SBH! 🙂

Com’on, they forgot to renew the domain name? Huh!

Happy but not satisfied – III

hdfcAfter the loan was disbursed, I called this lady again asking about the EMI figure. She said it’s for 15.5%. I reminded about the deal she had offered. She easily provided another phone number and brushed off her hands saying “he should be able to help you”. That bugger never answered the phone and next day I started escalation – in all and every direction possible; I wrote to the loan support email address, Customer Care, central grievances cell and what not.

It got funnier. The loan support guy wanted me to send him a scanned copy of the ‘offer letter’. It took some time to explain that like normal practice around, the offer was made over the phone and I didn’t have any document that mentions 15% interest. To bury the issue under the carpet, he mentioned that I “agreed” for additional interest rate as I signed the documents. Again, took time to explain that as normal practice, I expected the bank policies to be ethical and signed the blank template. All the details would be filled in by the agent later. He was reluctant to look into the matter as I could legally do nothing to him.

Well, I completely agree, that I cannot sue them in this case (not that I would but just saying). I set the right expectations – if I can spread the news and stop at least 5 customers from doing business with the bank, I consider myself successful. After a few more phone calls, escalations and arguments, they agreed to pay me the difference amount in EMI (Rs 24.00 X 36 months = Rs 864.00). One of the representatives came home with cash to complete the clean up.

As for the additional Rs. 1114.00, it took good effort to learn that the money went for some bond paper and insurance. While I insisted that they return that money too, I am not very tough on that. That was not a case of ‘cheating’, but of miscommunication. I would have been happy if I was told of this at the time of the offer.

Anyway, this is my most recent experience with the bank. I guess I have to stick to them for some more time; unfortunately my company’s salary account is with these guys and they are not willing to move just mine to some other bank, huh! But, I wanted to make it clear that if they want to take me for a ride, I will not let them do it. And I think I am successful.

Few more experiences to follow, but different transactions. Cheers!

Happy but not satisfied – II

hdfcI could sense that there was some trouble coming my way, but I wanted to give them a chance. Given the economic slump, it could be a little difficult to lend money, which could mean some adjustments, unofficial promises or “managing” done to reach the targets.

The 15% interest rate was promised to me by a DSA – Direct Sales Agent of HDFC, I guess a third party consultancy. By the way, during this transaction mess up and cleanup, I learnt a lot about their internal processes too. [;)] She said that the welcome call would mention the rate of interest as 15.5% and I should be saying yes, but the loan will be processed at the 15% rate I was promised at the time of offer over the phone and which was confirmed when I signed the documents.

The first hiccup that gave me a hint that this transaction is not going to be smooth is this very lady again. She asked me if I have any other loan and I said yes. She wanted the loan account number. I explained that the loan is from HDFC, EMI is deducted from HDFC Salary Account, and she has the bank statement now, so she can help herself out with the number. She insisted that I give her the number or else my loan application would be rejected. She wanted me to dig up the documentation I was sent 22 months ago to locate that number. Moreover, I frankly don’t remember receiving any documentation at that time. She wouldn’t even accept to write “no” for “any other loans?” – because that is a detail I provided anyway. She hung up on me and wouldn’t listen further! I was occupied with something else and did not get back for more than a day. Another colleague of her called me later and I provided the number from my statement to move the process further. And as the lady hung up on me, my ego hurted kno! We’ll see.

(contd… tomorrow)

Happy but not satisfied – I

These days ‘contact customer care’ is as important as ‘check email’, ‘pay bills’ or ‘car/ bike servicing’ check lists for me. There is something or the other these guys mess up that needs follow up. I wish there was at least someone who ‘understands’ the problem – leave alone resolve it. Ultimately I want it resolved, but if it takes two weeks of phone calls and emails to make them understand the problem, I guess they should pay me every month for my efforts!

Here is a description of one such incident with HDFC. It took little more than a month for the complete transaction, mess up and cleanup. While I appreciate the efforts put in to resolve the issue (and they resolved part of it), I am still not satisfied with the complete lingering experience I’m left with.

Objective? It’s three fold. One, I want to vent out to feel better. Two, HDFC is going to know that none of these mess ups are ignored and none of the efforts to clean up go unappreciated. Three, it’s a hint so that you can be cautious if you want to be a prospective customer of HDFC.

Well, coming to the story, my friend needed a personal loan. It was getting difficult for him with the documentation and I thought I will get involved. I will take the loan and give him the money; he will pay the EMI (transfer funds to my account every month). We followed a lead from some consultancy and initiated the process. 15% interest, 1.25% processing fee and no other charges – hidden or otherwise, 100000 is the principal/ loan amount, 36 months duration, 3467 is the EMI – all agreed and set. I provided the documentation. Few follow ups, few hiccups, a little inconvenience for the delay and finally the loan was disbursed. It took three weeks for this process.

The trouble has started. (i) The EMI was 3491. (ii) They deducted 1250 procession fee + additional 1114.

While (i) above is resolved, (ii) am no longer interested to chase them. I will pen down the resolution story tomorrow. Stay tuned…

There’s competition out there!

When I first read the line “Everything is same except for the name”, I sincerely hoped it was not. Almost an year ago, I stopped operating my Savings Account with UTI for valid reasons. And when I learned that UTI is undergoing some transformation, was hoping that the change will pull me back to some extent, if not win my heart.

Read my earlier experiences with banks here.

It turns out that they are being very honest about the change. I did contact them after it became AXIS and didn’t find any reason to change my opinion. They have some policies (some of them as stupid as their competitors) and they abide by them.

I don’t term them as bad bankers to start with. It could just be me who is unfortunate. However, when I explained the story recently, they still wanted to stick to their word. This surprises me to some extent. Anyway, it’s true that ‘everything is same except for the name’!

A couple of suggestions to AXIS if they would want to stop inspiring bloggers like me:
  • This is 2007! Not 1985. Every small thing should not need the customer to visit your branch.
    In fact, my experience started with this policy of their’s. They come to us and provide the ‘starter kit’ and what not when opening the account. I don’t even know where the branch office is. For every question I ask, all I hear is: “Please visit your branch to sort this out”
  • Let customer’s access their accounts online! Providing a username and password should not be so difficult.
    I was asked for my Date of Birth, Mother’s Maiden Name and a few other details when I opened the account. They need those details for ‘verification’ in case I forget my password. When I did lose my Internet banking info, they said verification over the phone is not entrusting and they want me in person at their branch office!
  • Use a little bit of technology! Not very too much, a little bit!!
    After the name changed to AXIS, I was browsing through their site to obtain an email address for support. I needed this because they want me to visit the branch if I call. And visiting their branch for every small transaction is the last thing I expect from them. All their ‘Contact Us’ pages have physical addresses only! I could finally get hold of one email address they claim it to be of the chief complaince officer or something like that.
  • And this one is pretty common to all the banks I guess. “The communication has been sent to you and…” complete the story. They never care whether we received the so called ‘communication’ or not. And I wonder what form of communication that is. In fact, last year is when I contacted them for Internet banking information. I stopped using the account since then and my account was closed sometime ago, after a ‘communication’ was sent to me. I don’t remember any email or phone call in the recent past. Further, I did move to a different locality in the past year and didn’t update them as they would need me ‘in person’ to update the address.
  • Blind rule that everyone knows is ‘never lose a customer’.
    In fact when ICICI Bank Branch Manager asked me to close my account because I had a cheque with a mismatched name, I was shocked. This wasn’t much surprising after that. AXIS wanted me to open another account with them. Well, after experiencing their service in so many ways, I am no dumbo to go back to them. I know I don’t have a lot of choice as all banks ‘compete’ in these cheap tricks to make money, I just have to figure out who is less stupid and bank with them. Huh!

If anyone else has suggestions based on your experiences, feel free to comment on this post. I in fact promised to let AXIS know once I publish this post. Hope they will implement a few, if not all of them listed here!