The Zimbabwean Perspective

A look at our lives and the tech we use in them

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Our banks are failing us, and it needs to end.

An experience with my own bank put me in a path full of the complaints of others about their banks as well..

Last week I went to a local store to buy something for my mother, I pulled out my CBZ ZimSwitch card to pay for it and the cashier swiped it. A network error unfortunately occurred and despite the money being deducted from my account the shop did not receive it. I figured it was just a network fluke and decided to contact the bank for help, but I after talking to some friends about my issue (and waiting for over a week for CBZ to get back to me), I realized that it’s not just CBZ having all kinds of issues with their systems. From Ecobank to NBS to Steward and POSB, a whole fleet of banks are letting down their customers due to a myriad of system errors, and it’s about time this came to an end.
It’s not just CBZ, banks like Steward have a dwindling service record as well.
So for a little more detail to my own issue, the shop was currently not experiencing any network issues with CBZ or other Zimswitch cards, I just got unlucky, but the fact that it took me a week to get any meaningful feedback about the issue shows that my seemingly isolated incident happened to a lot of people again, and if you know Zimbabwean banking systems, you know that this isn’t anything to be surprised by. Money getting “held up in the air” happens to a lot of us, and it’s obviously a reflection of the inadequate systems that our electronic transfers are based upon, especially in the case of ZimSwitch based bank cards. Banks themselves seem to be trying to mitigate this, in fact CBZ just recently had a system update and so did NBS, however both have so far seemingly caused more problems for users than fixed any. In the case of CBZ they even handed out new Nostro based cards for civil servants and well, to put it simply, a friend who uses one says they barely ever work, and he’s not the only one. It seems with the supposed improvements or increments to these systems only more problems are likely to arise , which to be fair can happen with any bit of technology when some version of an update is applied, but this is where the professionality and quality of service of these banks should come in. Yes we’re in a pandemic, but like any other company adjustments must be made to negate the effects of that, especially when quarantines and lockdown have had everyone relying even more on the online, mobile and electronic services of these banks. This is the worst time for any form electronic transaction to fail, especially when you know that contacting said bank to report any misplaced money, reverse a transaction, or even know what to do next is proving to be a mammoth task in itself.
And yes you could avoid banks like this one, but that’s beside the point. These banks need to clean up their acts anyway, the whole country can’t flock to the select few who still have everything in check.
Again, it took me a whole week to get feedback from CBZ , along with the weekend to get my money back, which is unacceptable in any case but imagine if that money was needed in an emergency. It’s been stated that if you don’t have access to your money then you might as well not have said funds, and this is exactly what happened in my case. Now imagine how many people have been in a similar or the same situation, let alone in that same week as this is an issue, I hear from all kinds of people using different banks. A friend using POSB brought up a similar experience and amusingly enough he had to eventually drive to Harare’s CBD to a POSB hall and gain assistance. And to be honest with my own CBZ experience I was close to doing the same, as their customer contact numbers (all three of them) would either just keep ringing or be busy, while it took three emails to make them reply. This is likely another indicator of troves of customers who had issues trying to get help for them, but likely these customer support centers are understaffed in a time like this. Again this doesn’t seem to be a problem with just one bank, and while the long term solution is obviously to stop any further problems from happening, a more realistic and crucial one at the moment would be to adequately staff these centers, allowing at the very least every customer to get attended to , even if their problem might not necessarily be initially taken care of. Customer peace of mind is key in a time of adversity such as this, as customers tend to think very highly of any company that treated them well through such a time. However, if they can’t even reach their bank then they obviously feel unheard and that does nothing for them, but more importantly does nothing for us as customers. Simply put, our banks need to do better, with a list ranging from system failures of different magnitude, to terrible to non-existent customer service, they all need to step up on almost every crucial front and we are entitled to demanding that from them. After all we literally invest our money in these institutions, the least they could do is give us more reasons to do that, not less.

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