Alberta Quarcoopome’s thoughts: The golden opportunity to use soft skills for digital banking adoption (2)


Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Two weeks ago, I shared a few practical tips on how banks can use relationship banking to protect their customers’ funds. Last week, I went on to propose certain soft skills that bank staff                                                                                                                 can take advantage off to drive digital sales. Each of the leading banks has focused on driving change and providing more innovative platforms for their customers to access financial services and engage with them. And, even though customers are now spoilt for choice in regards to the apps and platforms, the highly competitive nature of the industry means that the banks now need to find ways to outperform their competition beyond technology.

The Effect of Virtual Banking on the Banker-Customer Relationship

Before I go on, I will recommend that bank staff go back to basics on the implications of virtual banking on the banker-customer relationship:

  • The advantages of digital banking are endless. While incurring less overhead costs on the bank, it is fast and convenient for the customers, who can also protect themselves online as they monitor all transactions digitally.
  • The relationship with customer is still maintained, despite nil or minimum distance and with little or no direct personal interaction.
  • There are no constraints of time, place and method, and it is enabled by the convergence of computing, telecommunications and visual media.
  • There is a positive effect from the consolidation of relations between banks and their customers, and the reliance on efficient communication is of utmost importance for a good reciprocal flow of information.
  • Using the internet as a medium of transmission of the customer‘s mandate and communication of is legal now and should be covered by indemnities. Lack of this channel can be a constraint to enforce the customer’s mandate.
  • The basic banking principles remain, so the duties and responsibilities of bankers and customers to each other stands.
  • This digital era is however not a free lunch. It is also accompanied by newly emerging risks. In the interests of transparency and consumer protection, providers of online financial services are required to provide customers with comprehensive information prior to the contract being formed. Assuming a customer’s mandate cannot be effected due to system lapses, due processes should be activated to avoid loss by customers.

How Prepared are You to be a Digital Sales Consultant?

I pose this question to the following groups of bank employees:

Tellers, Customer Service Officers, Call Center staff, Credit Officers, Relationship Managers, Personal Advisors and Customer Consultants. Let us do a self-check before we become “experts” in digital banking selling or “consultants”. Being a consultant in selling does not necessarily mean that one must be a specialist in the technical details alone. I believe that one must be convinced that the product, when tested, is real and appealing while solving customers’ problems. This is the time to examine the processes with a third eye, mostly from the customers’ perspectives.

The Service Quality Elements (The RATER model)

Now that we know that the principles behind the banker-customer relationship has not changed, let us remind ourselves about the service quality expectations:

  • Reliability: are you reliable to honour your promises to customers?
  • Assurance: can customers be assured that you are knowledgeable, courteous and exhibit trust and confidence in your customer relations?
  • Tangibility: Although your bank premises may be clean and your physical appearance is professional, how do your communication structure and system set up also look like. How do you portray yourself and the bank to your customer both online and off-line?
  • How empathetic are you to your customer’s concerns? Do you put yourselves in their shoes when they encounter problems, or do you have an attitude of “out of sight, out of mind”? Do you take their problems personally?
  • Responsiveness: Are you willing to help and provide prompt service? Do you use the same benchmarks in offline response for on-line responses? 

Typical Customer enquiries and complaints

Before you become an efficient service provider, it is always advisable to review your processes, investigate the causes of typical customer concerns and issues, assimilate and identify best-fit solutions and revert to them. This re-evaluation of the existing service is very key to adopting skills to broaden the net to capture more customers. Let us take a look at some common concerns from customers, whether they are technically savvy or not:

  • Difficult for Beginners.
  • Trust and Responsibility issues
  • Inability to Handle Complex Transactions.
  • Use of Financial Jargons.
  • Security Issues.
  • Technology Issues.
  • Virtual Assistance not always assured.
  • Lack of personal relationships with bankpersonnel
  • Rude and unprofessional staff
  • Unprofessional telephone etiquette (long hold periods, tossing customers, etc)
  • Unknowledgeable/Ignorant Relationship Officers
  • Mis-selling of bank products & services.
  • Hidden/additional charges.
  • Lack of education on product features and wrong advice on fees and charges
  • Inability to meet advertised benchmarks.
  • Delays in loan processing.
  • Wrongful debits
  • Wrongful dishonour of cheques without notice
  • No consideration of customer loyalty
  • Failure to honour responses.

I hope this tall list does not scare you. It will rather toughen you to prepare for best-fit solutions on the virtual environment.

Sharing Practical Tit-bits with Supervisors

Dear readers, whether traditional or virtual banking, nothing is cast in stone because as human institutions dealing with human beings through technology, we are all bound to face challenges. These challenges should rather spur you on to challenge the status quo in your environment and develop out-of-the box solutions where practicable and legal.

Are you a head or supervisor in your bank? Let us share some ideas in this pandemic era where some of the new customer/client log-ons may be vulnerable to risk. As a supervisor, I am sure you are aware that risk management lies in every employee’s domain and no role should be under-rated. Let us look at the following:

  • Conduct regular zoom meetings to discuss your customer complaints log. Are they real issues or problems encountered by outliers. Remember that the outliers in a group are the source of inventions and creativity.
  • Check the trend of new customer digital log-ons and categorize them into various segments. Check their customer information to get an idea of their background, using artificial intelligence and prepare for them.
  • If your bank keeps recorded messages of customer complaints to staff or call centers, watch out for the responses being given by your staff. Are they using the RATER model discussed above? If not, quickly have a week-end zoom meeting to interact with them and demonstrate the best standards. This is not the time for blame games and “scapegoatism”. Creative skills are needed at this time.
  • Keep customers posted always. Many customers are multi-banked for a good reason, but should that be so? Sometimes, the reason is the lack of responsiveness or empathy from one bank. Customers therefore “vote with their feet”, just by using another bank’s digital app!! There are numerous stories of unresponsive situations where bank systems are shut down without customers’ prior knowledge. This prior information is very helpful especially when the bank plans to deliberately shut down its systems either to perform system maintenance withing stipulated time frames, system upgrades etc. When adequate notice is given, customers sometimes perform their intended transactions before the advertised period and prevent any inconvenience or embarrassment. Let us take the case of a customer who needed to transfer GHc2,000 from his bank account to a third party’s mobile money account. The customer performed a transfer for the first GHc1,000 to test the system. It was successful. The next five minutes was a nightmare. The feature on the bank’s digital app just vanished and the customer could not continue. It took a telephone call to a manager in that bank to assure the customer that it was due to a system upgrade, and not from his lack of funds!! Can you imagine the embarrassment? Fortunately, the customer had another bank’s app on his phone and had to resort to that one to transfer the remaining GHc1,000! what a mess. The SMS message from the bank to inform customers came a day later!
  • Can you imagine how it feels for your inability to transfer funds through the bank app or even complete payment at the Supermarket cashiers counter after a long queue? Sometimes it states that “your bank is unavailable”. The stares and embarrassment from other shoppers in the queue may be unpardonable if you do not have enough cash on you.

The Ultimate Love Potions for Customers to minimize risk

I have always believed in making the little things matter to customers. How about this if it is not too much to ask for? Can you prepare weekly SMS tips for your customers on any of the following issues? Before then, messages should be professionally written, with collaboration from the Corporate Affairs staff in your bank:

  • Security tips in respect of the COVID 19 pandemic
  • How to avoid digital banking fraud, especially mobile money.
  • Relevant brief motivational messages. You never know, many stressful customers under lock down may find it beneficial.

The intention of this article is not to scare you but to empower you and your staff to be in control. Whether on-line or offline, your staff and customers should be ahead of the fraudsters and not vice versa. I wish you a fruitful digital banking collaboration with your customers as they come on board.


Alberta Quarcoopome is a Fellow of the Institute of Bankers, and CEO of ALKAN Business Consult Ltd. She is the Author of two books: “The 21st Century Bank Teller: A Strategic Partner” and “My Front Desk Experience: A Young Banker’s Story”. She uses her experience and practical case studies, training young bankers in operational risk management, sales, customer service, banking operations and fraud.



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