The finding of a recent research study, conducted by the Bangladesh Institute of Bank Management (BIBM), is certainly an eye-opener for the current state of management of the country's banking system. The study has found that more than 1.6 million clients of as many as 27 banks closed their accounts in 2017. This was done on grounds of "dissatisfaction" over the quality of service rendered by officials and employees of these banks. In fact, the number of closed accounts would have been far greater had the study covered all the banks. There has been an uptrend in the closure of bank accounts; the rate of exit of customers from the banks concerned increased to 11.64 per cent in 2016 from 8.6 per cent in 2014.
The finding of the BIBM study on an issue that hitherto had escaped the attention of most bank management, does undeniably carry a contradictory message about the ongoing thrust on 'financial inclusion' of a larger segment of the country's population. Most bankers do not pay that much attention to closure of bank accounts; they, in fact, consider it as more of a routine affair. The research study, too, has found that banks are not interested to know elaborately the reasons behind closure of the accounts. It could be because of poor quality service rendered by bank officials. However, many people maintain accounts with more than one bank. They, on occasions, do close down accounts or keep accounts held with certain banks dormant while operating accounts opened with some other banks. In most cases, the quality of service is the main factor for such an exit.
There is no denying that poor quality of customer-service in most banks remains a problem. But the bank management is found unwilling to accept this truth. When the state-owned banks had a monopoly in the seventies and eighties, their customers used to make lots of complaints. The poor quality of their service was at the top of the list of such complaints. People, usually, had to wait in long queues while making deposits or withdrawing money or getting other works done. Besides, the approach of most bank employees used to be very unfriendly.
The situation improved considerably when private banks started entering the market. The complexion of the banking sector has now changed radically as the private sector banks largely dominate the market. Yet, it is hard to say that the private banks are delivering services up to the expectations of their clients of all types. There exists a mismatch between the customers' expectation and the services delivered by banks. Thus, it is important for the banks to pay attention to steps that are necessary to narrow the gap between customers' expectation and actual quality of the services that they deliver to their clients. For this purpose, the banks do need to have their own research and development wings to assess, among others, the level of customers' satisfaction and their loyalty. The BIBM study has found that more than one-third of the banks do not make such an assessment on an annual basis. This should not have been the case in a market where the number of banks is more than necessary.
The situation demands hard efforts by all concerned in a tough turf for competition among the banks not only to retain the existing customers but also to entice new ones. But the exit rate of customers does suggest that such efforts are conspicuous by their absence. The bankers are not that much sincere in matters of satisfying their customers. Customers do always expect personal touch and individual attention from the bankers. However, banks are found lagging far, far behind in meeting such expectations. Products' quality is important to keep the customers satisfied. But meeting the customers' expectation in relation to service quality is equally important. Banks, both state-owned and private, should pay due attention to both.
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