A disconnect between First Bank and e-payment consumers

* It’s not only about brand equity but consumer experience ─Customers

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

The obvious inability of the First Bank of Nigeria (FBN) Limited to effectively apply customer relation management (CRM) principles for adequate, timely and efficient communication with consumers of its financial products and services has been a matter of concern to several consumers

And it apparently affects the bank’s brand perception among the banking public, findings revealed.

Of recent, the bank upgraded its mobile banking application, FirstMobile, with reported improved features to promote safe and convenient Mobile Banking experience for customers.

Mr. Chuma Ezirim, First Bank Group Executive, e-Business and Retail Products, in a statement, confirmed the development Friday, June 19, 2020, in Lagos.

According to Ezirim, the bank’s dynamic mobile banking application had been redesigned with improved security and self-service features to ease the navigation capability and proficiency of customers.

“Its unique cool blue colour background gives it a more appealing interface for customers to enjoy a unified and streamlined banking experience whilst going about their day to day activities.

“FirstMobile is now embedded with a card protection service for customers to enable and disable cards on channels, account switch off as well as second-factor authentication and device registration.”

He said in the statement that the application had been upgraded with a “smoother experience” on funds transfer, bill payments and airtime transactions.

However, ConsumerConnect investigations revealed that subsequent to the said upgrade, the bank has been unable to manage the client communication aspect of its bouquet of e-payment products, including Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), Point of Sales (PoS), and Internet banking services, particularly in the last weeks amid the pandemic cum lockdown in the nation’s economy.

It was gathered that sundry consumers rather have got groundswell of complaints in regard to the bank’s financial product and service offerings, especially in crisis times as the current novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Having effected an upgrade and launched its mobile banking application, a considerable number of consumers said that First Bank did not communicate the development to them as expected, especially considering the sensitive nature of e-payment system.

As regards its FirstMobile, which it claims could allow the consumers to “bank on the go!”, and “start performing transactions without visiting a FirstBank branch”, cross-sections of the bank’s consumers, who spoke with ConsumerConnect have described their experience as disappointing.

A First Bank customer resident on Lagos Island, who did not want his name mentioned, said he was never aware of any redesign and launch of the new mobile application on his smartphone.

“They are useless; if not so how could they have redesigned and launched a new mobile app with the customers’ knowledge? Yes, they are big but they are not delivering as expected now.

“It’s embarrassing to discover the change suddenly when I was about effecting some payments in far-away Alaba International Market (in Lagos State) weeks back, the attempt was embarrassing as the already installed FirstMobile app failed to respond at all.

The customer said at first, he probably thought that his inability to access the app on his smartphone was due to Internet connection error,” he related.

However, a couple of days later, according to him, he discovered a completely different mobile app of First Bank when he tried using it.

“In fact, days later I tried to open the app again but it still didn’t work, and I was confused. I decided to update the app and reopen it, but I struggled to understand the new-fangled features of the app.

He stated: “My thinking at first was that the bank’s mobile app had been hacked and fraudulently changed into something else.

“A friend later told me that he had a similar unpleasant experience when he attempted to use the same app earlier in the week.”

One of such leading e-payment vendors in Ikeja, Lagos, simply identified as DM Services dealing in payments and receiving money on the bank’s e-payment platforms also said it had been difficult using the bank’s e-payment channels in recent times.

According to the Manager, for weeks especially during the continued partial lockdown, her office had tough times settling network dysfunction and/or disconnection issues with many consumers who came to collect money, using their FBN-branded debit cards on her PoS terminals.

“As far as we are concerned, after a number of our customers who came to use their cards or did mobile money transfers to our other bank accounts but to no avail.

Yet, some had their bank accounts wrongly debited; at a point, we simply discouraged others coming to collect or send money to our accounts not to do so, as we were unable to receive it.

“Once we noticed that it’s a First Bank debit card, or mobile money transfers from customers’ accounts to ours, we advised against doing so, as their (First Bank’s) e-payment system is not working for now.”

E-payment vendors, however, urged First Bank Limited to overhaul its electronic payment platforms in order to reduce the relatively high rate of downtime which consumers experience in using their electronic payment system lately.

Despite the bank’s reported efforts at promoting a digital economy in Nigeria nay Africa, having issued several millions of cards to users, many consumers and non-customers of the bank believe that some of the major challenges the bank is faced with are relatively low quality of service and timely, effective engagement of consumers.

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