Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Misery of Bank Customers at ATMs

200512F2.ATM-Cards.jpg - 200512F2.ATM-Cards.jpgObinna Chima and Nume Horsfall write on the plight of bank customers at cash dispensing points
System outages and long queues are now common at most ATM points in major cities of the country.
If it is not network outage, it is inability of the machine to dispense to cash to customers or the failure of the banks to load the ATMs with cash.
This unfortunate development, which seems to have increased since the recent extension of the cashless policy to additional five states in the country, has continued to subject bank customers to agony.  The traffic at the ATM points is even worse during the weekends and public holidays.
ATMs are key element of the cashless policy which was introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in 2012. The policy was aimed at reducing the dominance of cash in the system; promote financial inclusion as well as to encourage the use of other banking channels.
However, THISDAY findings in Lagos, especially in the mainland areas of the state, showed that in most locations where there are about five ATM points, only two were functioning, thereby resulting to long queues. Even at the so called e-branches introduced by some banks recently, the situation is not different.

As a result of this, ATM users are made to wait for longer period before carrying out their transactions.
In the 2013 Banking Industry Customer Satisfaction Survey, conducted by KPMG Professional Services, Nigeria, findings from more than 14,000 retail customers in 18 states had shown an increase in ATM usage in the country.
The survey however revealed that amidst the proliferation of channel options, customers wanted banks to remember that convenience should remain a key focus.
It also pointed out that cash availability at ATMs was the most important issue for retail customers in 14 of the 18 locations covered. It showed that 93 per cent of retail customers rated quality of service at the ATM as their most important service measure.
In a related development, a recent survey by the NOI Polls had also revealed that 61 per cent of bank customers agreed that their banks were exploiting them.
The customers had also bemoaned the poor service delivery by banks.
“The need to grow profits is seen as a trade-off for quality customer relationship and service delivery.  As the banking industry has gone from about 85 banks to 25 banks to 22 banks over the last decade, there is an increased pressure to stay relevant and profitable in a closely regulated industry. 
“This pressure has continued to cause a decline in satisfaction levels with several customer engagement platforms specifically with the old fashioned ‘customer service desk,’ it argued.
Complaints Galore
Although the Bankers’ Committee last year approved the removal of the N100 charged for customers that use ATMs of other banks, some bank customers that spoke to THISDAY still expressed concern over using other banks’ ATMs as a result of fears that they might have difficulty in retrieving their card when it get stuck in the machine.
An Access Bank customer, who simply identified himself as Mr. Akintunde, insisted on staying on the queue saying: “My card had been swallowed in the past using a UBA machine and the worst part it was that the branch was really far from my house and place of work.
“It left me stranded in the evening and I had to go out my way the following day to retrieve my card. So I would rather use my bank just because I am scared of the card being swallowed again.”
Also speaking on the same issue was Miss Stephanie Adebayo who said: “I think it was a network problem and my card was swallowed so I feel a lot safer using my bank.”
Another problem causing queues at various ATMs  is connectivity with other banks. This has also eroded confidence in the use of ATMs.
There had been circumstances where the banks warned customers before they shut down or do maintenance on their machines. However, some other unannounced factors cause systems failure.
Speaking with some customers, who were on a queue at a GTBank branch in Ikeja, one Mr. Kingsley said:  “I saw the queue and decided to try using another bank, but it said there was a network problem. Getting back to join the queue, it is working but it is also very slow.”
Also, another customer at a Union Bank branch at Akowonjo, Mr. Joel Onoja complained about the frequent system failure at the branch. 
Also, another customer, Miss Onyeka Chukwuma, said: “Most times I forget that they have stopped the charges if I use another bank. I just feel safe using my bank because I have noticed it doesn’t work with some banks.
“If there is a network problem and it refuses to pay me, it takes longer for the bank to revert my money and being that networks cannot be trusted in Nigeria, I’d rather be safe than sorry.”
The situation is even worse during public holidays and weekends as most times the machines do not have cash to dispense.
For instance, at a UBA branch which has three ATM points, just one out of the three machines was working.
A bank customer of the bank, Mr. Kayode, who complained said: “Sometimes when I come to withdraw cash, all the machines don’t work and now because it is weekend, the queue is long.”
Also a customer of Diamond Bank Plc, Mrs. Nkechi, who relayed her experience outside Lagos, said: “When I travelled to the village, I had to leave my town all the way to the state capital before I was able to withdraw money. When I got to their, I had to try various banks to withdraw money.”
At the GTBank e-branch at Egbeda, Lagos, where beyond cash withdrawal, about eight machines were installed to carry out transactions such as fund transfer, most times, the facilities are not functional.  At times, it is only one of the machines that is loaded with cash which leads to long queues.
But a currency trader in Lagos, Mr. Sunday Ojo, urged the CBN and banks to put adequate infrastructure to support the cashless policy.  He also called for more enlightenment for the banking public.
“If the operational hitches identified in the cashless policy are not taken care of, the objective will be defeated. These problems ranges from infrastructure because we lack it and not everybody even the educated ones in the society have good understanding of how it works talk less of the market woman out there,” he said.
Ojo added: “If you visit some of the ATMs in banks sometimes, they are either unable to dispense cash or have network failure. This is so alarming and frustrating. I went to the bank some weeks ago, but was alarmed that, due to network failure, my bank’s ATM could not work.
He also said: “It might have been an infrastructural problem, and the banks expect everyone to understand this. So, why are we being forced to depend on ATMs or point of sale terminals that might just refuse to work when we need them? It is the consumers that bear the brunt of all the infrastructural problems.”
Bank CEOs’ Defence
When contacted on the development, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, GTBank, Mr. Segun Agbaje, said the bank’s ATMs uptime is over 98 per cent. This according to him is why a lot of bank cardholders prefer to use GTBank ATMs.
“ATM uptime is over 98 per cent so they are mostly up, as a result of this reliability a lot of other bank card holders use them. This has become even easier since there is no charge. We will continue to build e-branches to help the situation,” he explained.
On his part, the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Fidelity Bank Plc, Mr. Reginald Ihejiahi, urged banks to prioritise investment in ATMs and other electronic channels.
The Fidelity Bank boss added: “Basically that is an area that is of priority for us. Each of our machines has an inverter to ensure that the network does not go off. They also have inbuilt note processing machines that makes sure we supply new notes to the ATMs.
“The ATMs also have a remote processing control centre, where we know when a machine is running out of cash and we have contractors that oversee them. So, we have a four-tier maintenance structure for our ATMs.”
Effort  to get the UBA Managing Director, Mr. Phillip Oduoza, to respond to the complaints by the bank customers was abortive as he did not reply THISDAY’s text message.
Source: ThisDayLive

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