Friday, August 08, 2008

Phone banking complications in India

I wrote to the customer care center of a certain bank in India after passing through a harrowing time with regard to my Debit Card.

Dear sir /madam,

This is an account of the complications I faced with Phone Banking of XYZ bank. This account does not have an intention of taking anyone to task. On the contrary, this should give both of us an opportunity to understand what has gone wrong and where. We must be aiming at plugging loopholes rather than penalizing anyone for it.

I'm a XYZ bank account holder since July 2007. (Savings A/c no: 111-4-232323-8) This is in fact my salary account and was opened for me by the organization I'm working with.

I went on a week-long vacation to Kerala, my native place. From the ATM of ABC bank in Irinjalakuda town (Thrissur District), I tried to withdraw money from my XYZ account. By mistake I entered wrong PIN thrice (I should have canceled the process mid way through, and have recalled the PIN properly before making further attempts. I was a bit hesitant to do this, since by doing this, I thought, I will be wasting one of the four insertions allowed by the bank in one month in other ATMs). After three wrong PIN entries, my card was blocked from doing further transactions. However, I received back my card from the machine.

If you believe me, I have been using debit cards of different banks since 2003. Currently I hold four debit cards of different banks and I have never been an absentminded person. The event mentioned above was the first in my life, an error that occurred once-in-five-years.

I rang up the hotline number in Ernakulam / Kochi and explained the matter to the Phone Banking Executive. ID verification was done in a few seconds' time. I might have said something like: “My debit card PIN has been blocked” or “My debit card has been blocked” to the executive. She answered something like: “We'll be able to permanently block (or lock) your card, not temporarily”. I was a bit confused at this. I wanted my card / PIN to be unblocked / unlocked and nothing more. I don't know how much clear I was in conveying this idea to her.

When I asked her whether there is any fee for PIN unlocking she said that the cost of a new normal Debt Card is Rs.---/-. Hearing this I told her that I didn't want a new Debt Card, but just wanted to unblock the PIN. The executive argued with me saying that she had confirmed with me twice whether my card was CAPTURED by ATM or not. I told her that I had not uttered the word 'captured' in the conversation till that time. I was ready to correct any miscommunication that might have inadvertently happened in the conversation. We were still online and the call was not even disconnected. But nothing was of any avail. The executive had already blocked my card permanently by that time. All these happened on 10th April 2008.

The second part of the story is very simple. I told her that I should not be charged for the new card. She agreed. I said I will be back in Delhi on 16th April and requested her to send me the new Debt Card in my Delhi address only after that. She said she would call me on 16th April.

On 16th April I waited for her call till noon. In the afternoon I rang up Delhi hotline number and narrated the whole story. No official request was found recorded. I recalled that no official request number was given to me for the request I made on 10th April. Hence, my story appeared fabricated to the new executive who attended my call on 16th April. Somehow I could convince the new executive what had actually transpired on 10th April. She gave me a formal request number (Preeti/BT/23988/112) and assured me that the new card will be sent to me free of cost. I'm awaiting the new Debit Card now.

The third part of the story is, from 10th April to till date I have no Debt Card to do any kind of transaction with XYZ bank. When I registered the request for a Debt Card on 16th April, I was told that the card will be sent to me in 4-5 working days. I registered a follow up request on 29th April (Prem/KP/8987/898). I had already received new internet banking username (16 digit number) and Debit Card password. But not the Debit Card.

(I am unable to login to my internet banking is the forth part of the story. This is probably because I'm not entering the correct password. Or, because the internet banking is not (re)activated after the new debit card/ number was allotted to me. I checked this by again calling up an executive: “Is there a connection between internet banking and ATM, because even though I try with the new 16 digit user name, my internet banking is not working. Is it going to be active only after my first insertion of Debit Card in an ATM machine?” I asked her. She was not very sure. However, I have not yet made a formal request for a new internet banking password.)

I don't know for how long I again have to wait for the new debit card. All because of the executive who unnecessarily deactivated my Debit Card forever. I curse the moment. She should have simply unlocked my PIN allowing me to do transaction with the same card. I could not withdraw money from the ATM in my home town and hence, I could not give any amount to my family during this vacation. I curse the moment I entered the wrong PIN.

Phone banking executives should not deal with customers mechanically, instead they should try to put themselves in the shoes of the customers while addressing the grievances of the former. If someone says his card has been blocked or locked because of wrong entry of PIN, the executive should clearly verify from the customer what exactly is the situation. S/he should be able to explain the two possibilities that might have happened with wrong entry of PIN: First, the user makes three wrong entry of PIN and is blocked from doing further transactions. The user however gets back her/his card. Second, after three wrong entries the card is captured by the ATM machine. PERIOD.

How things got so complicated, I'm asking myself. Why such a simple process is so much delayed, I'm asking the bank.

Best regards,