In today’s fast-paced world, one thing many of us hate is to stand hours on queues to pay for goods and services or to cash money. It is an even more painful experience when the person managing the queues is too slow, so to speak.
In a bid to minimise queuing and indeed double queuing, many commercial banks in the country are keeping pace with technological advances such as Internet banking, mobile banking and electronic banking.
In some cases, banks have also increased points of representation to include off-site automatic teller machines (ATMs) to minimise congestion in banking halls.
Sadly, however, it is said that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Whether it is because some people are averse to technology or resistant to change, today many people still walk into banking halls to transact business they can easily do using their cellphones, the Internet or indeed at the ATM.
For example, why should one stand on a queue in a bank to withdraw money and then pay for goods in a supermarket when, using Visa-branded point-of-sale (POS) devices, they can only queue once by making an electronic payment via POS in the shop!
It is the same case with paying for electricity and water bills as well as purchasing prepaid phone airtime. With some mobile banking platforms, one does not necessarily need to board a bus or drive to an ATM to withdraw money and make payments. From the comfort of their homes or offices, they can make the payments, including paying pay television subscription!
That said, I feel our banks can also do better in terms of managing queues and congestion. I have always wondered why, out of say 12 designated service counters only two or three should be in operation at any given time? What is more painful is the fact that more than half the service counters are ‘closed’ when the banking hall is very congested, mostly during the end of the month and ahead of long weekends.
In Lilongwe on Monday this week, many customers felt short-changed. There were long queues but few tellers serving them. One reader told me that at one of the service centres at the Crossroads Complex, for almost two hours, there was one teller serving a queue of about 30 or so customers.
The banking madness or nightmare was also experienced in the commercial capital, Blantyre, where out of 15 or so working stations in one bank, only about half of the counters were in operation.
Personally, in Blantyre, I walked into two banks to undertake transactions. Since I am not a customer of the two banks I visited and was carrying out the transactions as a third-party, I wanted to get some clarifications at the enquiries desk. Sadly, it was unattended for close to 30 minutes! The result was congestion in the banking hall which could easily have been avoided or managed.
This trend, where few counters are open, not only in banks but some supermarkets as well, has always left many wondering what management is doing to manage the situation. It also raises questions such as whether the banks have adequate staff to match the service they promise to deliver.
I have always believed that the queues, especially during peak or high demand periods, can easily be managed if banks open as many service points as possible. Some banks are already seen to be improving, but many are still struggling, leaving customers frustrated.
Time is money. Please save people’s time and money through efficient service delivery at all costs.
Personally, I would be willing to give ideas on better queue management in banking halls if requested, of course at a fee! Better still, banks should ask customers, not through the so-called suggestion boxes, but through competitions to give ideas on how they think the congestion can be better managed.
And, out of curiosity, someone asked me to find out from bank managers why they think customers are only interested to watch sports channels on television sets installed in banking halls. Why not news channels? Why not documentaries? Why not any other channel other than sports ones? Any takers out there?