A Chronicle of Enlightened Citizenship Movement in the State Bank of India
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Sunday, June 27, 2010
Faceless Banking can be intimidating..
Customers sorely miss the human touch..
C V ARAVIND
Speaking at a recent function in Hyderabad, the Reserve Bank of India Governor, Dr D. Subbarao, has sounded a warning to bankers highlighting the need to ensure that technology does not become a barrier between customers and bankers. ‘‘Faceless banking can be intimidating…'' said the Governor, adding that technology cannot substitute brick and mortar branches.
The advent of technology has changed the face of banking in the country today and most banks have gone the whole hog in adopting it in a big way. Beginning with automatic ledger posting machines, they have now graduated to such advanced processes such as Automated Teller Machines, Internet and Mobile Banking and Core Banking Solutions or CBS. CBS means that you are no longer a customer of the branch but of the bank.
Today, if you have an internet banking account you can transact most of your banking business in the confines of your office or home and the online service is efficient, swift and also makes for a high degree of accuracy.
Yet, as the RBI Governor has said, technology remains an unfriendly interface and many customers, especially those belonging to the earlier generation and the lower strata of society, have begun to sorely miss the human touch that was an integral part of banking till the machines took over. Of course there is no denying that the advantages of technology far outweigh the disadvantages and this is precisely why banks, irrespective of their size or economic status of their clientele, have shown a keen interest in jumping on to the technology bandwagon, though it does not come cheap. Things have also come to such a pass that there are a few foreign banks which levy charges on clients.
Access to technology
Technology taken to the countryside has been a boon to the rural folk who are being trained to use biometric cards. Yet how far does the rural customer understand the intricacies and the nuances of technology? Given a choice, a vast majority of these customers would prefer an interface with the bank personnel rather than transacting with a blank screen, which is mechanical and lifeless.
The Governor's concern that technology might either bypass the poor or prove to be a hindrance to those who have just opened bank accounts is not unfounded.
Banks, therefore, have an obligation to instruct their frontline staff to tune up their customer service levels, as it is an open secret that machines, however speedy, efficient or accurate they may be, can never replace the human element that will always remain intrinsic to banking, at least in our country.