5 Lessons About Online Businesses: insights from customer service hell at Faysal Bank Limited

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One must make a habit to learn from whatever experience can be gained during the course of each day. My new employer requires employees to open accounts at the Faysal Bank (this one is located in Garden Town, Lahore). So I made my way there this morning to face customer service hell.

Here are five online business lessons I learned from my visit:

Their business is a privilege

Banks do not open a new account unless you can prove that you are socially acceptable and thus make available a reference who has an account with the same branch. It is just like getting into a club or emailing friends for invites to a particularly hot startup.

Faysal Bank Limited wanted me to deposit Rs. 5,000 in order to open my account. I had a check with me worth many times more than that, and my employer would be depositing a significant amount every month. But thats just not good enough for Faysal bank.

Do not charge for the privilege of gaining your customer’s/client’s business. I do not even prefer to get any more information than their email (for unique id) and password (for access to your system, only if necessary). Allow them to be comfortable, let them in to see what you have to offer. Offer reminders to add to their profile by showing how it will enhance their experience.

Show them the way

I new there was going to be trouble as soon as I became a ping pong ball between two bank employees who could not decide where I should go to get my account opened. I was new in the environment and it was annoying. All I needed was clear direction. If the bank had any sign pointing me to the right person, I would not have felt like leaving.

First time visitors to your online business feel exactly the same. They come with a mix of expectation and curiosity. If you can not show them how to do what they want to achieve in the first few, precious minutes of acquisition, they are going to walk straight out of there by clicking the back button.

Perform A/B, multivariate testing and engage sample of users in pre-launch surveys to see just how they react when the reach your home page. It is going to save you a lot of bad word of mouth later on. Also, do not over burden them with too much information. Introduce and establish your tips / help methodology early on and provide just enough information for them to be productive.

Quality over quantity

I spent some 50 odd minutes in the bank today. Most of the time was spent sitting at the desk of this lady who had her attention solely and unequivocally on the phone in her hand. It was like I was watching some Star Plus soap. Apparently she was in conversation (she thought in hushed tones) with her fiance/husband about her nature and that of his family members. There was talk of leaving the job and/or studies and how some things were just not acceptable to her. There was no eye contact, no attention to my repetitive time checks and at one point, she wrote some one else’s name on the deposit form for my initial 5,000 rupees. She was on the phone when I was guided to her desk. She was on the phone when her colleague left his client to see why I had been sitting there for so long. I would like to thank the gentleman for his service.

The point is, average time on page is a metric touted by web analysts every where. It measures how long did a visitor stay at a particular page. It does not tell any thing about the quality of the stay. Is the visitor confused about what to do next? Is she trying to figure out what she can from cluttered information? Are her expectations and needs being met? Check to see if visitors are spending too much time on a few pages. Let visitors tell you about the possible issue by prominently placing feedback mechanisms.

Reliable and repeatable processes

At one point of time, she received a document for signature verification. It did not seem to her that it is an important step in the banking process. The whole idea is to make sure that transactions remain secure and reliable. The lady signed the verification without having a look via her computer or the customary bank sign cards. Couple that with the software system being ‘down’, which later turned out to be an internee’s misinterpretation, I now have severe doubts about the security of my deposit and the reliability of the bank’s processes.

This applies specially to online businesses. Monetary transactions are not the only issue here. Expectations are similar when it comes to data. It can be personal, professional, earned(like points or reviews) or business. The processes that you set up should be reliable and repeatable. If there is manual input at any step the customer should be made aware of such and proper security measures should be in place. No need to say such measures should have checks of their own. For God sake do not sell customer profiles or even worse, loose it.

Relationship Mechanisms

My new account must have been created by now. I will receive a welcome letter in a couple of days. It has been an experience, that I’ll say. The output of my interaction, a check book and an ATM card will be arriving soon. Not really, I will have to visit the bank 5 days from now to pick up the check book and again in 10 days to pick up my ATM card. Why are they doing this to me and what horror will I face the next time.

They will have already confirmed my postal address by sending me the welcome letter. It could have easily been couriered for confirmation. They could have asked me to email them some key number from the welcome letter. Instead they want me to bring the letter to them twice in 10 days to get what I could have gotten sitting at home.

How you choose to continue your relationship with the customer is a fundamental question. There are many flavors. Some banks have account managers. Warid Telecom has a specific person who calls me every month to ask if I am happy with the service level and to get fresh idea of my needs. Other companies make it obvious and easy for me to get in touch whenever there is an issue.

Your customer should only visit you in case she wants repeat business, or you have impressed her enough to try another of your products or services. Every one loves pushed data when its contextual. If she has an order, push her information about its approval status, payment processing and delivery status. Do not make the customer come to you for information that should have been provided already.

Bonus lesson

Give your business, the suppliers, vendors, customers and visitors your wholehearted and unrelenting attention. Make them feel the most important people in your life. Success of a business is in the strong footprint of the entrepreneur.

Facebook comments:


  • Nice post…but it is confusing as to you are telling your experience at the Bank or you are suggesting Founders of online business on what to do. I dont see the relevance.

  • Just a note – the employer should get the account open herself. You shouldn’t have to go to the bank and get khwarofied like this :)

  • Good one! one of my best read’s today i think.

    However, I have also been a client with Faysal bank, for the last three years infact, and have had my account in two seperate branches. I believe i was fortunate enough to have good customer service reps at both places, because i didn’t face any issue whatsoever.

    At the first branch, my employee account was opened by the office staff, i didn’t even have to go to the branch. just signed an authority letter and got my account number immediately and the checkbook in a couple of days.

    The second time i opened, i was told the refferal requirement wasn’t necessary anymore, i only needed a letter on my company letterhead about my employment status. It took my three days to get that from my head office, and in the meanwhile, my account was opened on the basis of my business card (with the condition that i would submit the letter asap). No hassle there.

    On the day of the opening, i was told the system was down and not issuing account numbers.. so i just gave them the money, had my deposit slip signed and left. Two hours later, they called me on my cell, gave me the new account number and confirmed the deposit slip had been processed. Even gave the transaction number of it for my records.

    Lastly (and the one reason i think i’ll never shift!), i wrote two checks from that account. When the checks came to the branch, they saw i didn’t have enough money in my account.. instead of rejecting the checks, they *called* me, saying they had stopped processing them, and if i came in that day and resolved the issue, the checks wouldn’t bounce. I went there a little while later, found out that the problem was with their system, resolved it, was apologized to profusely, and left.

    I dont believe any other branch would give that kind of customer service to their regular customers (note: i am a regular customer, not a gold, platinum or high roller one).

    my new branch is F-8 Markaz, Islamabad. Old one was Sh-e-Faisal, Karachi.

  • TEE BEE: I realized I was having a particularly bad experience. Since all I do is think about web/mobile based businesses, I started thinking how these things effect our online visitors. I gave them the benefit of doubt of having an off day, but our online visitors will never do that. The more I sat there, the more I found relevance it made to me.

    mansoor: The point of my post was not to beat up on Faysal bank. I have heard good things about them too. As I said above, I realize that every person or organization can go through a disaster day where most things go wrong.

    The point was to transfer my negative experience into positive learning.

    Startup: Why did not I think of that 😛

  • PS: If it turns out that levels of service vary on branch to branch basis, then it points to further organization wide problems. For instance, while the lady was on the phone, the colleague on the next desk could only ask me if I was being served. May be she outranked him or they were on equal standing.

    Where was the floor manager or some one who was looking after the KPI regarding maximum amount of time it should take a new customer to open an account?

  • My personal experience with Meezan Bank’s different branches in Karachi, is different. Though, overall they are not bad.

    I also see a huge difference of the customer services between large banks (HBL, UBL, MCB not a good service at more branches) and comparatively smaller banks (MB, FB) etc.

  • Well, for online business, you must have a good idea / base and than it should be presented in a way that once a visitor visits the site, it should make him feel as this place is specially built for him. The feel and comfort of the look, contents, and procedure must be simple and comprehensive.

    If you have something interesting there and is presented will, you will get those visitors to hit back again.

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