Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Opinion: Why We Must Demand Better Service

I have realised that habits are really hard to break. I've had an account with Diamond Bank since I was in 100 level. It just seemed natural to open a corporate account with them when I set up my company. That decision has been traumatic to say the least and caused me to lose sleep more times than I can count.

Let me start with the Account Officer assigned to manage my business relationship with Diamond Bank. She takes the award for the most incompetent, unprofessional and nonchalant banker I have dealt with till date.
She rarely picks her calls, and rarely returns them. When she does, she does so days after. I believe if we had a more serious person overseeing our account, things would not have gotten as bad as they did. The absolute lack of urgency with which she dealt with issues we had with our account is the reason why things went South.

In January, my Admin Manager informed me of a debit of over 70,000 charged to our account by Diamond Bank. Our Account Officer stammered when we asked for an explanation. After giving us like 3 different reasons, she eventually settled on one - simply put, we had overspent our limit and we had been charged on excess spend. I disagreed. I distinctly remembered filling the forms and could not remember choosing the spending limit she spoke about. We demanded an outright refund.

While we were still on the matter, we got two more debit alerts; over 40,000 naira in February and 20,000 naira in March this year. All these deductions are separate from all the other bank charges (CoT, VAT etc.). I was livid, especially so since our Account Officer suddenly went AWOL. After a week or two, I took time out and went to the bank myself, only to see our amiable Account Officer seated at her desk and asking very warmly, "Is anything the matter?."

Thank God for the love of christ that constrains us. True. While I ranted, this lady sat there the entire time and looked at me with a smirk I found very disconcerting. In not as many words, it was mocking; asking, "And what are you going to do about it?" No apology, no remorse. She insisted we had overspent our limit and I asked her a very sincere question, "How did that manage to happen when we have someone overseeing our account? If indeed we chose the limit you insist we did, why didn't you warn us when you saw us approaching that limit?" Does it seem fair to you that we have been charged close to 150,000 naira in  3 months just for having money in your bank?" She didn't have an answer. I gave her my terms - refund my money, all of it, or close the account. 

That was when her boss showed up with his 'Dear Valued Customer' crap. Essentially, they didn't want to lose the account. They were willing to cut a deal. "We will refund some of the money; not all. You should take some responsibility too." They said. I told my Admin Manager who had been dealing with them, to arrange a meeting so we could sort the matter out once and for all. The four times they agreed to a meeting, they cancelled. At very short notice. "Sorry, we have this quarterly briefing bla bla bla." "Can we reschedule, there's a compulsory regional Business Managers bla bla bla." And then it slowly dawned on me... these guys think I'm stupid. They have no intention of refunding the money. And that was when I called the boss myself.

I asked him if he thought I was stupid. He apologized. I asked him if he thought I didn't have things to do with my time since they kept fixing and cancelling meetings and ruining my calendar. "Em... there must have been a miscommunication" he stammered. I hung up. I was told he showed up at the office 15 minutes later. By then I wasn't willing to listen to anybody.

Due to the frustration at Diamond Bank. I opened a Corporate Account with another bank and moved my money there. Very warm and helpful staff I must say. That was until we sent a payment schedule for some accounts to be credited. Something I usually do when I have a lot of accounts to credit and very little time.

Naomi, we have a problem, my Admin Manager said. 
"Now what again?"
The bank charged us for the transaction, and then deducted a percentage from each account they credited. Let me explain. Assume that I've asked the bank to pay XYZ 10,000, 5,000 and 2,000. They charged me for sending the money and then charged XYZ as well. So instead of 10,000, 5,000 and 2,000, each person gets less the percentage the bank chose to take out. I couldn't wrap my head around it. Why would a bank debit someone they should credit without permission from the person who initiated the  transaction? When our Account Officer was called, she said it was a CBN policy. I asked my Accountant. He found it as strange as I did and promised to call a few Bank MDs. He called me back and said there was no such policy. 

When I called our Account Officer with my findings and demanded she send me the CBN circular that mandated the deductions, her story changed. "We charge that percentage on salaries and bonuses' she said. "Okay. How did you know they were salaries and bonuses since the schedule we sent did not indicated it? Silence and then a whimper "That's just the way it's done." I felt sorry for her. 

I asked for my GTB account statement from inception till date. I needed it for some budget reconciliation I was working on. I noticed a particular deduction every month since I opened the account that I never knew about. Interestingly, the ever efficient GTB, quick to send me email alerts, never sent one email about this particular deduction. So until I asked for my bank statement, I had no clue they were taking it out...

I have written a formal complaint to the branch where my account is domiciled and copied the Head Ombudsman at Diamond Bank Head Office. If after the stipulated date I do not get a full refund, I'm sending a copy to the Central Bank of Nigeria and Consumer Protection Council.

For the other bank and GTB I have taken both up as well. This is not about the money. Far from it. It's about what's fair and at least serves my interest and that of the bank, not just the latter's. Only God knows how much the banks are making from under-handed deductions like these. Keeping quiet will only encourage them to persist.

I honestly believe we get crappy service because we take crappy service. When we demand better or do what's in our power to do - seek alternatives or escalate the situation, we set the standard for what's acceptable and what's not.

©Naomi Lucas


Abidemi Sanusi said...

Naomi, my head boiled as I read your post, but only because, like every Nigerian, I empathise with you. They get away with it, because the prospect of 'fighting' to get redress is so drawn-out that most people give up, conceding that the stress is simply not worth it. Like you, I just go straight to the top. But what about those who lack access to such people?

Naomi Lucas said...

Hi Bidemi. Everyone has access. But not everyone knows that they do. I just wrote a letter, got the names of the right people, addressed it and dispatched it. Believe you me I;ve gotten a response from Diamond Bank HQ already. Sometimes we need to insist on being treated right. WE should, must demand it!