Book Review: Heads You Win

Good guys finish last

My first post in 2014 and not a nice one, I'm afraid.

I needed to take a Demand Draft (DD). Axis Bank, Indira Nagar Branch is a minute's walk from my office.  I have my salary acount in the Bank as well.  We have our Company's corporate account in the Bank as well (Both the salary and corporate accounts are in a different branch - Kasthuri Nagar - if that matters).   So it was the logical choice to go to. I could have asked our office admin to get the DD, but since it was for a personal purpose, I felt I had to do it myself.

I took a token at 12.36 PM (DF197).  There are 14 or so counters - for various purposes from NEFT/RTGS to Gold Loan to DD/FD/PO and so on.  I could see the Operations Head and other people seated as well.

There were many customers - most of them patronizing either the automatic cash deposit machine or one of the three Tellers.

The lady manning the DD counter was busy - people were flocking around her (the way the typical Indian office works). I looked around and found no other DD counters. I had no clues how long I had to wait.  The token announcement system and the display kept updating for all the counters but the one that I was interested in.

As I waited, I saw the attender taking DDs for signature to a couple of other ladies. After this, an entry was made in a book and signature obtained from the customers who had requested for the DD.  Many of the customers before me had requested about 5 DDs each.  Perhaps they were business customers (many of the DDs was for Sub Registrar, Shivaji Nagar and such).  Hey, I did not eavesdrop!

After about 45 minutes (yes, 45 minutes!), my token appeared and I presented the DD request form.  Though the form had a section to specify the account number to be debited, the lady in the counter said I needed to give a cheque (to Yourself) as well.  Luckily, I had a cheque leaf and made out the cheque.

I don't know what software Axis Bank runs, but I would have expected the lady in the counter to know, how long I was waiting.  Even if not, I would have liked her to tell me, how long more would it take for me to get the DD.  No such information was forthcoming.

I waited. It was now 2 PM.  DDs were still being issued - as I realized in batches.  After I saw that the "latest" batch didn't include mine, I approached the counter.

I asked the lady, if I was going to get the DD at all!  My account had been debited a few minutes back.  Only after I requested, did she print the DD and then hastily got it signed.  I showed her my token and said how I was waiting for the last 80 minutes or so.  She said that she apologised. I asked her if she had any idea of the time that I was waiting.  She countered saying that I would have seen that she was busy.

I said that I knew that. My problem was not knowing upfront when I came into the Branch how long it would roughly take so that I could decide appropriately.

It was 2.15 PM when I left the Bank.

To me, many things were wrong:

a) Absence of SLA for a service - I could find nothing put up.
b) The idea of a token system is to manage queues.  If there are more people requiring a particular service,  I would have expected additional counters to handle the requests.
c) Specialized counter for DD/FD.  In the internet age, this looked ridiculous to me.
d) I could see many idling staff in other counters.

This is not even a Government Bank!  If the money spent in the LCD TVs in the office, displaying the statistics of the Bank were instead used in providing better service, I would not have had to write this.

I take a DD once a in blue moon (I don't remember when I did this last).  Maybe, others do rarely as well.

I could have a requested a Demand Draft through internet banking. Unfortunately I needed it at short notice.  It takes 3 days for the DD requested online.

But what if one could apply online, but pick it up from Branch?  An SMS could be sent, when it is ready.   Oh no, to do that, one would need to understand customer problems, wouldn't one?

I could have called the Relationship Manager for my Company's Corporate Account and asked her to do a DD for me.

"Could have", "could have" - I could have done many other things - gone to the Manager's cabin and shouted, taken back the form and gone elsewhere...

But I wanted to see what happens to the "Aam aadmi".  And my learning was - good guys finish last.

Update: 12 Jan 2014

This write-up reached the Branch Head, who called me.  This was how she started.

The link of the write-up did not work for her.  (I said I could resend, if that helped).
If you have X amount in your account and/or you are a preferred account holder, you have a "separate"/dedicated mechanism to avail service.
If you have a business account with "X" amount in the balance, again, you have a dedicated mechanism.

I said, that was not the point.  How does a lay man who comes in to get a DD know how long it will take. She said that typically a DD processing should not take more than 30 minutes.  I was plain unlucky that day.

I said how would I know which day to choose to visit?  Isn't that what the token system was supposed to tell you - x people before you or y time for you to avail the service.  At least, if there was proper queue, I can figure out myself from the queue length, but when the token numbers are not sequential or get processed across counters, how am I to deduce?

No response to that, of course!  I got the feeling that she didn't care.  That is hardly surprising - that is the plight of "Aam aadmi" after all!