Queue is Dead but not the Stench from the Dead Corpse

Sometime back there has been huge hoardings at the prime locations in Chennai with a small black portrait of the letter ‘Q’ garlanded and with a condolence message ‘The Queue is Dead’. It had been very much surprising and after that there was a launch of website called TheCinema.in by Sathyam Cinemas. At the outset, we should appreciate this novel initiative of bringing in greater levels of comforts to the customers and helping community commuting since the traffic snarls would greatly come down if long serpentine queues are avoided. At the same time, the implementation had (and has) interesting downsides too and this had been a discussion for us sometime back. Check out this post.

Well! The inner crux of this post is how effective is Chennai Metropolitan business houses in managing queue systems. What would be the general public opinion on the way businesses transact during the course of normal  business hours, be it a trading agency, commerical house or a banking or a financial institution or a telemarketer. I really doubt, that Chennaites would really give a big negative nod to the ethical business conduct since the way time management is achieved in Chennai is deeply disgusting and discouraging.

I have some distinct examples from two premiere banking branches. One is ICICI Bank. You can always find long long queues at the ATM counters. And for strange reasons all thier ATM counters, inspite of serpentine queues follow the bad practices like the one below.

  1. Inspite of the crowd, most of the ATMs only have a single machine.
  2. The ATM centers do not have even a helpline telephone in case you want to alert the Police or the Bank Helpline in case of emergencies.
  3. It is a good practice that is recommended by all banks that you should ensure you are the only person near the ATM while the cash is being dispensed to you. But the security folks at ICICI ATMs always allow the next two guys to stand very next to you. Unless you raise the volume of your vocal cord (shout) these onlookers would not relent.

    Perhaps for the curious reader, I would like to share an indepth comprehensive study on ATM security that I have made in MouthShut.com. Check it out here.

  4. Even in the branch, they follow some sort of token system but seldom it is obeyed. Unless you are always near a teller and try to sneak in after somebody moves out of the slot, your token number is never called.

Now coming to the second interesting follower of the token system is State Bank of India. I think, they have the most stupid implementation of the token system.  Though a security guy (in case of manual issue) or a machine issues the token and the counter staff religiously follow this, there is a steep disadvantage with respect to State Bank of India. The following are them:

  1. If a close friend of the staff comes, they preempt you in availing the counter service and you need to take a wait.
  2. The services are awfully slow. The SBI Management has to do something to step up the speed of services at the counters.

Today, I had a chance to visit State Bank of India, Velacherry and it had been a simple 30 minutes just to make a very small five hundred rupees cash deposit in the savings account.  And during the wait time, a old retired Accountant, was chatting with me. Some of the things which formed part of the chat and which I truly feel that State Bank of India can take positively and include corrective actions are as below:

  1. No doubt that State Bank of India is India’s premiere bank. They also claim ‘Safe Banking with SBI’. Everybody agrees to this. There is no iota of doubt in that. But the degree or quality of services has been deteriorating day by day.  For a retired person, it is ok to wait at the branch for two hours, make the necessary transactions and go back home. But for working professionals, this type of service deterioration is a serious hazard. They would applied for one hour permission and come to the bank and with this type of lethargy of the staff, they simply have to waste three times the permission times and then express apology tones to thier superiors in thier workplace.
  2. The gentleman expressed one more shocking news. Not everybody that comes to bank are customers. He had known a person near his house, basically a shopkeeper’s brother, who just walks into State Bank Velacherry, gets a token and sits there the entire forenoon and goes to home for lunch. When questioned of his activity, he had replied that his place is hot and since electricity charges are high, he is resting in the newly air conditioned branch of SBI Velacherry.

    Extrapolating this, we can forecast that there might be a significant percentage of visitors to the bank who practice this unhealthy habit. I think it is high time that State Bank steps up vigil in the branches to contain this menace.  It would’nt be a much loss if just a lazy guy takes rest in the branch except for resource waste but it would be disastrous if a bank robber or a terrorist takes shelter under this pretext.

    Hence I think, SBI Management should wake up to be proactive in containing this menace than being reactive.

  3. The gentleman also expressed one more interesting fact, which I would like to share with everybody. The  coupon that is issued by the branch has the following details:
    1. State Bank of India
      Velacherry Branch
      Date: — | — | —- (This is anyway blank when issued too)
      Token Number: xyz
  4. Visiting back to (3), and relating to (1) above, can you ever escalate to State Bank Top Management that you have been waiting for more than 30 minutes but some guys who have come later are availing services by shortcuts? He also suggested that SBI should imprint two more data in the token:
    1. Token Issue Time
    2. Token Service Time
    3. These two times have tremendous advantages. A few of them would be
      1. SBI could easily gather data about the employees are very capable and performing and thus can be rewarded.
      2. Shorcuts like in (1) are easily avoided.
      3. Gathering of enough data to improve service quality, better resource utilitsation etc.

There has been great financial downsides that have also been encountered because of Queue and Time Mismanagement. You would have noticed that most of the banks have something called BillPay system. But lot of times, a significant amount of BillPay systems with ICICI and CitiBank does’nt go through and there are fine prints in thier ‘Terms and Conditions’ that this service only facilitates you and they are not liable for any late payments due to ‘technical faults’. The end result is that your service provider would levy you penalties in subsequent bills and your good credit standing would be affected, because of incorrect bill pay processing, which is the result of bad queue management and time management.

We hope that business houses in Chennai would try and correct thier time management strategies to help their customers and in fact help themselves, without that the caption befits and conveys the truth to the absolute. The queue problem is resolved but the sideeffects and garbage cleanup failure resulting in bad stench emanations.

Readers: What do you think? Feel free to share your views about Effective Queue Management and/or similar experiences that you would encountered.