My recent experience with Kotak Bank has shaken my faith in the “Relationship Manager” interface to banking that is practiced by private banks in India. It has also shaken my faith in the jury that voted Kotak the “best private bank” in India. Mr. Kotak, here’s what can happen when you make a person in charge of a customer’s relationship and experience with your bank.
Similar to other SME current accounts we were supposed to have a Relationship Manager (RM) at Kotak. However, due to severe attrition at the Bhandarkar road (Pune) branch, since 2007, the managers kept changing. In fact starting 2009, the system did not assign an RM to us and this slip stayed unnoticed. Therefore, I have been using the branch itself for helping me with banking services.
In mid 2010, we wanted to change the name of the current account to reflect the new name of our company. The Service Manager (Mr. B) at the branch informed me that I need to submit some documents which I did. He assured me the name change would be done in a week.
Two months of follow-up phone calls and emails produced no results. One of my clients needed to transfer money using the new name so I made about 10 calls that week to ensure the name change gets processed. Mr. B assured me it is done and I can ask the client to make an NEFT with the new name. I never imagined he would lie considering that the payment would bounce causing embarrassment and re-payment issues for me. As expected, I had to apologize to my client. I stormed into the Branch Manager’s office and stated my complaint in-person. The Branch Manager (Mr. V) superficially assured me of service and faked utter disbelief on hearing that my account does not have an RM. I realized the incompetency and non-transparency problem starts here. He never followed up with his staff on my complaint.
Shortly, I am informed by Mr. B that they need an additional signature on the board resolution. That is provided promptly. One week later, after a lot of follow-up, I get an SMS from him stating that the account name has been changed. Another lie. It was not done. I ask him to check again and he vanished.
I had gone beyond anger. There was no call back from Kotak. Two months later we inquire about the status of the account, and we are told that the name change has not gone for processing as they now need a fresh copy of another document. Why bother! We got the account closing form and submitted it today, after 6 months of frustration.
This used to be good bank. I can only assume that Management changes have eroded it’s credibility. That’s really my point! Would you entrust customer satisfaction to People or to Process? In banking, I vote for a well-defined process. 90% of service requests are routine matters and require an efficient process and timely resolution monitoring. Why should my work depend on the knowledge and commitment of an RM?
We have a similar account with ICICI. No frills. No Relationship Manager. We submitted the documents at the SME Service Counter in the branch. We got an SMS informing the request has been received. Four hours later, we got an SMS that the name on the account has been changed. We checked online and it was true. It was managed by a process with a ticket and an SMS delivery to signal completion.
I was a believer in RM-based banking when I had a great RM with my personal HDFC account. Recently they switched my Manager and I am stuck with someone clueless and inefficient. However, I have a fall-back. The Service Counter at the branch and the person who takes those routine 90% requests is super! I get an SMS and a prompt call when my work is done.
The bank must have a fall-back system when it’s staff fails to respond. In my personal experience, the IT systems of HDFC and ICICI are a notch above. HSBC has honest staff but lacks good systems to back up its service. This particular branch of Kotak has shown that it has neither. I wonder if my query ever entered the system as I did not get an email/SMS confirmation for 6 months. And now, it remains to be seen how long Kotak will take to process my account closure. Ironically the account closing form had a small box that said, “State reasons for closing account. Please use the back portion of this page if you need more space.” When we submitted the form with the back page filled up with this complaint, the executive accepting the form told us -“We do not accept anything written on back side. Please write it on a separate paper and attach it.” A sad state of affairs at a bank that bears the founder’s name.
No one can afford to waste time on poor Banking. A case in consumer court is probably justified when I find the time. Especially since we all know that a computer can be used to generate the document list needed by a customer vs. using an ill-informed RM. It’s not rocket science to map processes and flag incidents that bypass this process. The least a system can do is generate an alert if a customer is waiting for 6 months!
It’s about time someone takes a fresh look at Banking for the masses.