For the larger part of the last decade, GTBank has been the most loved bank in Nigeria. It is fact also, that most of us – most people who got GTBank accounts, did so without any form of marketing. We walked in with our feet, got our forms and joined the queue at the customer service desk.
The allure of GTBank was easy. The brand was slick, cool and the service was fantastic. Most people who got GTBank accounts did because it was cool – it was almost like being associated with the GTBank brand made one cool in extension. All the cool kids had GTBank accounts and brand loyal folks like me endured hundreds of “why don’t you have a GTBank account?” type questions.
Eventually, the wife and I needed to consolidate our accounts on a bank platform with the right services, and choosing GT was easy. The platform let us do most of the things we wanted with our money, including international transfers. And that Mastercard was additional value – we didn’t need to fund an international account to use a US card abroad – we could spend from our local account with little fuss (and at CBN rates, which didn’t please out mallam). Both Naira and Dollar Mastercards worked on most merchant platforms online.
The allure of GTBank doesn’t end with the middle class, and aspiring young people. Even the Mallams and artisans were caught in the hype (back then, it wasn’t hype, it was the sensible thing to do). My Mallam has a GTBank account, my shoe store has a GTBank account, my new tailor has a GTBank account. Recently, I needed to pay vendors working at our office, and my carpenter suggested I “do a GTBank now?”, meaning I should do an online transfer for him instead of giving him cash.
But all that, is dead. Dead and gone. At the peak of its brand might, GTBank was like Apple – it was the perfect bank, it could do no wrong. Any complaints about poor service were done in hushed tones. But not anymore. Rumours of poor services started slowly, hush hush, and then gathered strength when influential customers found the will to complain publicly. Then came the internet banking crashes (which are still going on). Almost overnight, almost every mention of GTBank on social media was in relation to some form of bad service. The mystique of infallibility, built on brilliant service is gone.
There’s too many reasons why the value of the GTBank brand is falling. A quick sweep of social media tells a tale of frustration, pain and disappointment from hitherto satisfied customers.
A Google search of variations of “gtbank problems” will supply endless links of customer complaints. But what makes these complaints worse is that the customer service reps at the branches seem to have suddenly stopped responding to customer troubles. Even worse still, the courteous staff we had come to associate with GTBank all seemed to have moved to a parallel universe, leaving behind clones who didn’t inherit the all important customer first genes.
Was there ever a time until recently, when we associated sweaty customers on endless queues with GTBank?
The third party transfer on savings accounts debacle is another case in point. While I know this was possibly a routine maintenance issue that maybe extended its scope, the PR associated with that episode was so horrible, it did no favours to the brand.
The fact that there was a general failure on the internet banking platform before then just served to make the situation look worse than it really was. However, the biggest failure here was GTBank’s customer care department. They did not forewarn, they did not communicate properly during the episode, and they did not mop up after the issue was resolved.
The real question now is: what happened?
Is it a leadership problem? Is the retirement of Fola Adeola and sadly, the death of Tayo Aderinokun, the reason GTBank’s culture of efficient customer care been eroded?
Becoming bigger comes with bigger issues. GTBank is about the best performing banking stock in Nigeria. The GTBank brand has given it the push in the markets, and fueled the ban’s growing stature and expansion. The question that remains, on the back of another solid year, will be if GTBank’s customer care commitments can keep up with its growth. A stronger brand means more customers, and more issues emerging, and more problems to resolve. If stupid people in large groups can wreck havoc, there’s no saying what can happen in a congregation of ‘smart’ people piling-on on one bank.
A big selling point for GTBank had always been technology. The internet banking platform was great. But again (this is becoming a recurring term), not anymore. The internet banking platform failures are becoming everyday issues. This afternoon, I got three SMS notifications for one transaction, and no email. At other times, the notifications are delayed by a day or two. The transaction failures at ATMs probably should be left for another day.
The reality for GTBank, like Apple today, is that the competitors are no longer sitting on their hands, doing nothing. Other banks are doing stuff too. Of the other internet banking platforms I’ve tried out, Zenith Bank and Diamond Bank provide better services than GT. Zenith Bank transfers are sharp and stress free. Diamond Bank’s internet banking interface is much better than GTBank’s.
I am still wondering when GTBank’s interface will improve across platforms, and their transactions will go asynchronous – Diamond Bank has done this already. If you have ever tried to log in to the GTBank internet banking platform on an iPad, you will find the process cumbersome and annoying. One has to zoom about 4-levels up to the get the right sized tap buttons for the password input.
By the way, it takes me a couple of browser refreshes to get to the GTBank website, and I don’t know if this is a social experiment, or just another problem with GTBank technology.
The sum total of this GTBank case is that we have gone past when we just want our money to be safe with a bank. We know GT will keep our money safe. But we want better services, and we want it with GTBank. Anyone who really loves a brand feels sick when the brand disappoints – this is what most GTBank customers are feeling. We have got to the point where GTBank and Zenith Bank are mentioned in the same breath, with regards to technology. There’s nothing wrong with Zenith Bank by the way, but it’s a big fall for GT though – because they had reigned supreme for so long, and we had come to look up to them as an icon of technology and service.
No amount of cool stories on NDANI will replace the simple part of the customer who yearns for simple, stress free customer service.
I have a small story from GTBank of back in the day. I had gone to the bank to make a deposit that was obviously larger than what I could make over the counter. However, the queue from the bulk counting room was spilling over. There was obviously nothing the bank could do about the number of people trying to deposit there, but when I decided I could just slide my card in at the counter, deposit my cash, and save the bank one more person on the long queue, I expected the teller to apply some logic and see I was offering a solution rather than cutting process.
The teller however said he would rather I went to bulk counting because I was over the limits. I pointed out the lines, and how bad it was for image and how I was offering a solution – no budge. Then branch manager happened to pass by and overheard this conversation. She came over, told the teller I had a point, and even offered to run my transaction. In two minutes, I was done. The manager then went to the line spilling from the bulk counting room, and announced that if any of the customers there was paying into their own accounts and had a card, then they could come over the nearly empty banking hall, and have the tellers help them out.
This story of course is from 2012. But this is the kind of story we often heard about the GTBank of old. Efficient operations which always kept the customer happy.
So if anyone knows where the old GTBank has been kidnapped to, could you kindly return to 635 Akin Adesola Street, Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria (found using Google cache because the main page was down)