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Of banks, EcoCash, mobile money agents, platforms and great customer care

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The past 10 years wouldn't have been possible without you. Thank you!

Recently I had to change banks because the one I was banking with is apparently going under. And Their customer care service is at its worst, but that’s not the issue; I was essentially told by the executives at the top that they couldn’t let me withdraw my money (we’re talking small middle income amounts here) and that I should stop pestering them. But that’s still a story for another day. I decided to change to a more solid traditional bank. One of those that have been around since as far back as we can all remember. The ones we always run back to.

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The choice was a careful one; they had to have the best internet banking. They had to be ahead of the curve with mobile money. Well, middle of the curve would be fine really seeing no bank would qualify on being ahead. But anyway, the choice was made and I submitted to the painful process: passport photos, proof of residence, affidavit for that, employer letter, spouse’s documents etc… It’s a process you don’t want to do again anytime soon so you feel loosely locked in, hoping for a decent experience.

It didn’t come. The decent experience I hoped for that is. I was told soon after opening the account that they were not doing internet banking for new clients until further notice! It’s been 2 months, still no notice. I was also told, even though I was in the same branch, I couldn’t join the shorter queues because, technically, the shorter queue tellers couldn’t do transactions on my type of account. Yes, “same bank branch but yours are these long queues here”. Ironically, I thought I had the preferred type of account!

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It doesn’t end there. Customer care is about 3 on a 1 – 10. The place is busy. The staff impatient and occasionally blurting out unacceptables like “hey, I told you that already. Next!”, only to adjust to a neutral artificial tone when you object. It’s almost as if they know you’re loosely locked in with them. Or that they know they’d have enough business anyway even if you voted with your feet. So take it or leave it!

There’s not been a single time that I have walked into an EcoCash agent and gotten the take it or leave it attitude. It’s clear why; EcoCash is a platform. The agents are small businesses just hooking into a platform. It’s up to them to treat the customers well and get to keep more of the commissions Econet shares with them. If they don’t, there’s another agent just down the road and they lose that transaction!

They are not a big bank. They are not a big mobile operator. Even though they are essentially the face of Econet, the agents are not Econet. In terms of customer care that’s what makes the EcoCash model so different and frankly, one I would prefer even for my savings if they officially took deposits. Small depositors getting personal, friendly, and honest service from small businesses.

Yes, at the end of the day there’s still one big company at the top, but there’s some measure of power to choose that customers get in that food chain. It is power customers don’t have with traditional bank branches.


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29 thoughts on “Of banks, EcoCash, mobile money agents, platforms and great customer care

  1. I couldn’t agree more, Zimbabwean Banks are prehistoric at the moment.

    After a lengthly process to get a pre-paid credit card, I enquired on the time it takes for the money that is loaded onto the account to reflect and become available, a few days. Oh well nothing we can do there I suppose, next can I view my credit card statement on-line, just to make sure no one is cleaning me out of my “credit”, no you have to physically email our card centre and they will produce a statement and email it back. Not very secure if you ask me.

    Can’t wait for the day when we get real banking service in Zimbabwe!

  2. Good article, the Ecocash model works well for both the banked and unbanked, take note banks! and what banks don’t realise is that Ecocash is servicing a market the banks had never aspired to capture due to the monumental mountain of account-opening and overdraft-application paper protocol and snooty-nosed holier-than-thou “i’m a banker dammit!” attitudes that we as Zimbos have come to quietly accept and hate. So all this nonsense about bankers trying to take on Ecocash needs to die a peaceful death. The banked populace is no more than 10-15% of the addressable market. So now banks want to take the fight to 10-15% of the Ecocash market, good luck! There is a significant informal market out there that takes home significantly more $$$ monthly than the banked formally employed/banked earners, e.g. cross-border traders, SME retailers, transport/combi types. This is the same market that makes the bankers go green with envy at the lucrative micro-finance institutions that finance these informal/semi-informal businesses, imagine what Ecocash/Telecash/Netcash could do with a micro-finance angle…..

  3. A great service indeed from Econet! However, they need to seriously improve on their EcoCash Call Centre (114). Trying to get through to their “customer care consultants” is a nightmare! I tried this several times late last month on two consecutive days without success (Has anyone ever been able to put a call through?). I kept listening to the automated response system and punching in digits as instructed, only to have my call terminated after some minutes after being told that all the “customer care consultants” are busy.

  4. 2 things to I picked from the article, 1st this an advert promoting ecocash whose technology and your demands from banks are not the same and 2nd bad customer service exists and it’s not uncommon generally everywhere consider kombi’s they are not generally the friendliest faces around, yet commuters are some of the most common repeat customers around

    Also have you tried to cash out small amount from an ecocash agent you would be surprised….

    1. … 2nd bad customer service exists and it’s
      not uncommon generally everywhere consider kombi’s…

      It still shouldnt be acceptable, regardless of who it is… Ecocash, Bank or Kombi

      It is easy to treat customers like dirt(that-pays-you) when they have no choice, but it comes back to bite you when the customers suddenly have choice. Ask the banks who kinda passed the baton to Ecocash who will also pass the button to whomever comes with better care, products and prices.

    2. Unless you did not take Business 101 then i will excuse you. No business can survive on the pretext of a take it or leave culture which is loosely translated to poor customer service, in fact the big banks do not agree with what you are saying that bad customer service is common…

    3. The fact that other businesses like kombis are not customer friendly does not excuse the banks from their bad service. Banks are supposed to be run by professionals who know about customer care. Good thing is that Ecocash is around, it will teach the banks customer care and innovation

  5. Kwabeza, try MBCA Bank and you will be far better off. Only problems few branches and less ATMs, no Cellphone banking and no Ecocash integration, but their service and internet banking are AWESOME. You rarely get queues longer than 10 people in their few branches. I have both business and personal account with them and i do over 70% of my transactions online…

    1. And did i mention that they r one of the few banks where you can pay someone online and send them payment notification via SMS or emails (PDF).
      They also send you daily/weekly/monthly/annual account statement to your email for free.
      They also hande Mukuru transactions, if you have a relative in Diaspora…

      Disclaimer: I DO NOT WORK FOR MBCA BANK but i just appreciate good service, which is rare in Zim financial sector.

      1. Lucky you, regarding ur MBCA service experience. For Mukuru I was told they’re offline one day, the next I called b4 going to the branch only to be told the person who answered the phone didn’t know anything about Mukuru being on/offline, so I’d just wasted my fuel driving to the bank after making a phone confrimation:). No one offered to ask my numbers so that when it’s online they let me know & I come back.
        I went to CBZ showgrounds and it took me all of 3 minutes to get my money.

  6. I sympathise with you but in honesty my experience with Zimbabwean banks, namely Barclays, has been amazing, perhaps its because I opened my account in a small town; it took all of thirty minutes at which point I received my two Visa debit cards and my online banking password which I was told would be activated the next day and which actually was activated that evening. I have been overseas for the past few months and whenever I have encountered a problem using ATM’s here, my emails have always been quickly responded to by their Customer Services representatives in Harare. One time I requested that they change my phone number to my European one and they went all out to make sure it happened even though technically there were forms that should have been signed before I left.

  7. many Zimbabwe banks have made large strides to operate on the basis of a more unethical approach to their business practices, not to mention Econet Services “VAS” Darlington Mandivenga why are you so greedy? Ecocash should integrate with Zimswitch ZSS, so we Zimbabwean can do online business transactions.

    1. Maybe the monopoly of Zimswitch is about to end and we will see a new switching coming EcoSwitch.

  8. Honestly I cannot imagine banking without Internet Banking in 2013!!!!! I strongly believe someone is not doing his/her job. Whats the reason for not providing internet banking for new clients…….platform is full?????kikikiki
    I suggest contact their head office

  9. Give us a break. This is a pid article to talk nice about the paymaster.We were’nt born yesterday – literally.

    What happened to EcoLife ? hello World 1

    1. The Ecolife issue is in court we await the legal proceedings. It would b I fare to Judy Econet at this moment.

  10. NMBZ never a problem, try Avondale open early close at 5pm weekdays 2pm saturdays. Internet banking and all, and they aint going nowhere.

  11. Lol. Seriously. Instead of whining and moaning about what Econet is doing, go out there and start your own thing. It sure as hell is not their fault you are not creative or that you have the business acumen of a gnat. No one has be paid by anyone to state facts which is exactly what this article is doing. Hatidi vane maPhd (Pull her/him Down) syndrome!

  12. I hate Econet and l love ecocash. Ecocash solved one the biggest problem l grew up in in rural areas.

    And for that l have been singing ecocash to anyone who comes close to me.

    Im actually tempted to open my first bank account with TN bank even though l prefer cbz.

  13. Kwabeza I think I know which bank you’re talking about. Don’t make the mistake of forgetting ur PIN as it’s a card & PIN account so you CANNOT withdraw without ur PIN even if you have ur ID and anything else to prove you are the account holder.
    About the queues I actually move from the priority side to the normal side coz they take less time and seem to actually want to serve you unlike the hostile priority staff – could be just the one branch but they make me give them a 2/5 for service.
    For prepaid mastercard my experience with FBC Southerton has been so far my best banking experience. I will NOT use any other branch to re-load as they talk of 15 minutes and usually do it after hours. Southerton branch is the only one which has stuck to the 15mins window for reloads. And you can access all your accounts online…..:) But they just need to make sure their toll free line actually gets answered. Otherwise I’d give them a 9.6/10 for service.

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