The country’s largest lender, which has been slow to respond to customer complaints till recently, has adopted a distinctly fresh approach to resolve such issues.
The elephant appears keen to acquire a nimble image. The 48-hour deadline set by the State Bank of India (SBI) chairman for action on customer complaints has hit home hard.
India’s largest bank is evolving a distinctly new customer-friendly face, since its chairman OP Bhatt sought fast and prompt action on all complaints filed by the bank’s customers in a directive issued earlier last year. The internal communication from a deputy general manager outlined: “Please note that our Chairman desires that all the email complaints forwarded from the Corporate Centre have to be replied to the department within 48 hours.”
Here is some impressive evidence of SBI’s brand new face. During the last financial year (2009-2010), SBI received 31,862 complaints and was able to resolve 30,588 within an average resolution time of nine days. Thus, SBI was able to achieve 96% success in complaint resolution in the year. (The bank now says it is striving to achieve an average resolution time of less than five days).
Over the past few months, there is a noticeable difference in the manner in which complaints are being handled at the bank. The customer services department has exhibited surprising alacrity in resolving grievances. In fact, over the past six months, Moneylife has noticed a tangible difference in the lender’s approach towards complaints.
Moneylife regularly receives complaints on various matters from readers, and forwards these to the respective authorities. As far as SBI is concerned, we are now receiving prompt responses on these complaints.
This is quite a turnaround from the time when complaints would pour in thick and fast into the customer services department of the public sector bank, but the resolution of these complaints took a while. However, that may be a thing of the past, now that the bank has distinctly altered its approach to deal with complaints.
Commenting on the change in attitude towards customer complaints, an SBI official explained, “SBI is making a conscious effort to ensure quick and quality resolution of customer grievances in a customer-friendly manner. The root cause of customer dissatisfaction is the general attitude of resistance to customer complaints. With this realisation, the bank has been working to bring about a turnaround in attitude towards customer dissatisfaction that is reflected in these complaints. Customer complaints are our guiding light towards better customer service. We, in SBI, are targeting to provide more than what the customer expects, as it results in customer delight and is the only way to win and retain a customer.”
The bank recently launched an additional channel for customer grievance redressal, called ‘SMS Unhappy Service’. This is a dual mobile and web-based system, under which SBI head offices have ‘Happy Rooms’ which deal with customer grievances. Any customer wanting to lodge a complaint, sends an SMS “UNHAPPY” to a specified number (8008202020). The Happy Room responds to the SMS by calling back the customer on the mobile number and records the details of the complaint. The complaint is then forwarded to the respective branches through a dedicated website, and they are required to advise a resolution within 48 hours.
This is conveyed immediately to the complainant on the mobile. The system affords the advantage to redress simple complaints in the shortest possible time. It also gives the customer the flexibility to approach his or her banker from anywhere.
The system is unique, in that the bank takes proactive action by calling the customer. SMS Unhappy has helped SBI to make an ABC analysis of customer complaints. The managers found that a majority of customer complaints relate to the lack of response to customer queries. Such complaints are readily resolved by the proactive expert team that handles the service. The bank claims that easy accessibility from anywhere in the country through this channel, and quick redressal of complaints have made customers happy.
The bank explains that a lot of groundwork has gone into changing the attitude of the employees through various programmes such as ‘Parivartan’, ‘SBI Citizen’, ‘Udan’ and ‘Jagruti’. All employees, from the messengers and security staff right up to the senior management, were put through an instruction to better understand interpersonal relationships, relating mainly to customers.
The initiative has marked a welcome shift in SBI’s approach towards its customers. No doubt there remain several unresolved complaints that the departments still have to look into. But with the top bosses taking a keen interest in the effective resolution of complaints, customers can hope to get these matters sorted out sooner than later.
Source : Moneylife