26 February 2013

Rwanda: BK, How Many Passport Photos Do I Need to Give You?


In my decade-long career, I've had the opportunity to work both in the private and public sector. The similarities between the two are few and far between. There is one unfortunate similarity that the two share; a disagreeable inability of different departments to cooperate. In the public sector, I took this for granted because I understood that a culture of inter-departmental information sharing and cooperation would take a long time to become entrenched. However, I could not, and still cannot, understand why the private sector suffered a similar malaise.

About four weeks ago, I decided to apply for a credit card at BK (Bank of Kigali). I did this mainly because I've been unable to purchase anything online using the debit card that the bank issued me (which is another issue that I can't understand...I assumed that as long as a card is a VISA card, you can use it online. But I was wrong).

The process seemed easy enough. I went upstairs to the debit and credit card department, filled in some forms and was told that I would get the card in two weeks. That was that. Or that was what the BK staff member told me. How wrong I was. After a MONTH later, I received a call from a BK employee telling me that my credit card request form was incomplete. I needed to hand to them a passport photo, a copy of my national identity card, my work contract and salary slips for the last three months.

I was livid and I let my feelings known. I had two issues. First of all, why wasn't I told this when I first applied for the credit card? How difficult would it have been to tell me all this? Was it because the staff member didn't know about the other requirements? Why did they have to wait for a whole month to contact me with the new information?

Secondly, (and this is the rationale of my column this week) why did BK's credit card department ask for the additional documentation? I could understand all the additional paperwork if I was a new customer but I wasn't. I've been banking with BK for the last three years; I have separate accounts and a loan I'm currently servicing. So, if the credit card department really wanted all my information, all they had to do was look inside their own system. Seriously, how many passport photos did they really need of me? How many ID's? How many work contracts? How hard could it have been to simply run my name through the system and see all my personal information?

I understand that this might come off as harsh. But I would have not been so disappointed if I hadn't expected better service. BK is probably the biggest bank in the county; it is no small fry. In fact, just the other day, I found out that it was opening branches in Nairobi, Kenya. Honestly, I had come to expect international standards of customer care from them. To say that I was disappointed would be an understatement.

BK's inter-departmental communication and cooperation failed miserably in this circumstance. I can only hope that things will improve in the coming weeks, months and years. Rwandans have come to expect more and more from their financial services providers and, as competition increases, they will be less forgiving.

So, at the end of the day, I STILL cannot shop online. But perhaps I should search for the silver lining here. I guess the BK credit card department helped me save the hard earned money that I would have probably spent on online trinkets.

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