Ever wondered where the electronic system that allowed a National Bank of Malawi (NBM) customer to prod a button or two on a console in a banking hall, to collect a ticket whose number would later be called out on a speaker, thereby summoning the ticket-holder to be served at a specific till?
Whoever is wondering about this ‘missing’ arrangement is likely to be a member of one of more than 10 banking halls in the cities of Lilongwe, Blantyre, Mzuzu and Zomba, where the e-(electronic) banking system was quietly scaled-back by the bank within a few months of its introduction.
“We are running a hybrid sort of a system where some service centres like Henderson Street [and] Chichiri [in Blantyre] and Mzuzu—remain on this platform. This was done to meet the diverse needs of our clients,” explained NBM corporate affairs manager Annie Magola.
But pressed to concede that there must have been some challenges that led to the service withdrawal, Magola said: “As is the case with most new technologies, teething challenges were noted right from the inception of the system. Most of these challenges were duly addressed.
“However, there were several other challenges, emanating from customer behaviour, that we did not manage to bring fully under control.”
The problems, she said, included the behaviour of some customers who would get their tickets and walked out of the service centres before their ticket numbers were called out. Other customers, she explained, would not pay attention to the calling out of their numbers altogether.
“This resulted in delays because the system would call out the numbers and yet there would be no customers to heed the calls,” said Magola.
The other challenge was that some customers would pitch up at the bank with their friends, or relatives, who would be made to sit on the bank chairs, as the ticket holders were waiting to be served.
“This caused unwarranted crowding in the banking halls, thereby inconveniencing bona fide customers,” she said.
Magola said for customers to be served smoothly by the e-banking system, customers needed the discipline of being ready with their paper work, like filling in deposit or withdrawal slips, first, before collecting their tickets.
However, some customers took the tickets first, before doing the paper work, which, in some cases, can be time consuming.
“In the process, their numbers were being called out and they were not ready to be served. This created a backlog which, in itself, made the banking halls look like there were more customers than usual,” she explained.
Magola says the bank thought through the various challenges before making its decisions on what would be best for each of the banking halls.
“In some centres, the system has been suspended until such a time we will feel that our customers are ready to embrace it. As said before, some service centres are still on this system. “We are optimistic that, soon, more customers will embrace it and we may revert to it at a later stage, where we have temporarily withdrawn it, depending on customers’ demands,” she added.