M’sian banks make huge investments to improve services

By Daljit Dhesi | Source: ANN
Malaysian banks are aggressively beefing up their complaints management systems and investing millions of ringgit in them to not only cope with rising complaints, but also to enlarge their customer base to boost bottom lines, industry observers say.

Ernst & Young Malaysia partner of financial services Chan Hooi Lam, for instance, said that banks were making huge investments in managing complaints and cited two main factors for it.

“First, it is due to competitive pressure and also because it is advantageous for banks to adopt good systems. It is easy for customers to switch banks if they are dissatisfied with the service, as word travels fast and far via the social media, including among the Internet community.

“On the other hand, handling customer complaints and feedback the right way enhances customer satisfaction and loyalty.

“Second, it is in line with Bank Negara’s expectations that banks promote responsible and fair dealings with financial consumers, including sound capabilities and efficiency in dealing with consumer enquiries, complaints and redress,” he told StarBiz in an email reply.

Due to the high volume of complaints and feedback received, particularly from consumer banking customers, Chan said an efficient system solution had become a must for banks.

Specialised teams with full-time officers had been used by the banks in this regard, he said, adding that the volume and types of complaints and feedback were expected to increase in the future, with increasing awareness.

OCBC Bank (M) Bhd, which views a complaint as a gift and chance to make things better, has invested millions in its GiFT Manager system, an end-to-end complaints management system that helps record and track complaints and their journey toward resolution.

Its quality and service excellence head Alvin Lim said that when people complained, they were giving the bank feedback and a chance to make things better to further cement the relationship with customers.

In this regard, the central bank’s guidelines on handling complaints, introduced in 2009, drove home the fact that an increase in complaints was not necessarily a reflection of deteriorating service, but more of accessible complaints handling procedure, he added.

Lim noted that the key to the success of the complaints management process was to make it as easy as possible for a customer to register a complaint, and making it clear to them that their efforts would not be in vain.

“One of the things we look out for, in particular, is trends or patterns in the feedback we receive. If a complaint that has never been there before starts cropping up once or twice every month, then we would take a closer look at it.

“There could be something brewing that we could proactively nip in the bud. If we notice that complaints increased at particular periods, perhaps there was something to learn there too. So, it is not just a volume game but one where strategic thinking goes into interpreting the trends,” he explained.

Alliance Bank Malaysia Bhd group chief operating officer Raymond Leung said the bank had invested heavily in ensuring a robust infrastructure was in place to manage complaints efficiently and effectively in line with its vision and aspiration to be “The Best Customer Service Bank” in Malaysia.

He said the bank’s complaints management unit system was now able to systematically collate and ensure that an action was taken when a complaint was lodged and tracked to ensure customer satisfaction.

With the complaints management system in place, Leung said, it was also able to use the feedback as the basis for the bank’s product development, process mapping and continuous improvement.

Universally, he said complaints were on the rise, as consumers were well-read and better informed these days.

It was also now easier for a consumer to air their grievances, as there were more accessible channels such as the Internet and social media.

Meanwhile, The Association of Banks in Malaysia (ABM) in responding to queries, among others, said in a statement that all 13 of its council banks had set up dedicated customer service units to handle customer complaints, and that the full set of customer service contact particulars for each member bank could be found on its website.

It added, however, that it was unable to pinpoint the total investments made to date, as besides physical infrastructure such as call centres, dedicated phone lines and IT systems, “investments” would also have to be made to enhance soft skills such as staff training, additional manpower and other resources.

The common types of queries/complaints, according to ABM, related to personal banking products such as savings accounts, current accounts and fixed deposits, credit cards (i.e, repayment, interest rates, annual fees and service tax), home loans, hire-purchase and scams.