what we don't say out loud.

Organisational Bureaucracy……





Last week I had made a deal that prompted a new bank account. I walked into Equity Bank, Harambee avenue branch at 2 .15 pm i remember glancing at my watch. The sooner I stepped into the banking hall I was greeted by a maze of people. I got confused and lost at the same time before i regained my posture and sought to find someone to direct me around. I scanned around the banking hall and read through quickly the signage hanging high above each desk even though the crowd of people towering around those desks was overwhelming. I felt like I walked in a government office.

I pressed on onto one desk marked as enquires only to find out it was a service desk too. The lady behind the desk was talking on the phone while everyone stood patiently to wait for her to finish talking to the person on the other end. I was starting to get impatient, few minutes later I stormed out of there to look for a security guard, and he pointed me to the accounts opening desk. One desk had an attendant while the other was vacant and a queue of almost ten people was mounting before me. I realised there were three employees who were converging and talking in low tones near one of the printing machine behind the desks and I went forward to ask them if there was someone at the vacant desk to ease the queue that was piling at the accounts opening. I got blank stare before one of them asked me what I required and I poured my issues. She went into one drawer and pulled out three forms and was asked to fill and puf! She disappeared into thin air.

As soon as I was through I waited at the same desk for a few minutes before I woke up and asked the gentle man sited next desk as to the whereabouts of the person who was serving at my desk, I was asked to be patient as they would return. It took almost 10 minutes before she came, she signed the forms and stamped them and pointed to another queue, apparently I needed a second approval from her colleague. I tried to protest only to be told that, that was the bank’s procedure and she could not pass the papers for approval to her colleague who happened to be sited right next to her.

I was the sixtieth person on the queue. When it was my turn the sales person took my finger prints. He seemed to be experiencing an issue with his computer from his body language, I was now getting anxious and after several attempts to hide he eventually asked me whether I had visited Kigali branch, Jaw drops! My heart beat could be heard through my ear drums, I thought of all the possible frauds that could have occurred to the funds in that account. I asked for my bank balance before we proceeded.

The gentleman remained calm assuring me all was well although I could hear none of it until I had read the balance .When I thought we were done with the approval procedure the papers were again returned to me and was told to proceed to the operations office. Well I had had enough of this procedure; already 6 people were waiting outside her door for various approvals. I sat next to one lady who was half way asleep who added that she had waited for more than twenty minutes to see the operations manager.

I went back to the gentleman who served me last and demanded for the operations lady to be alerted that clients were waiting for her .Ten minutes on she showed up un apologetic. No one seemed to mind this treatment.  She was on the phone when it was my turn to get in her office. She finished her call casually and addressed my issue only to discover that my phone number had changed from the last time I operated the account. I was sent back to the first account opening desks with all my papers to seek other approvals and start the procedure all over again. I got stomach sick and at that moment I started to complain to her of how long I had been in the branch she reverted to her calls and ignored me. I walked out and went to pick RTGS forms I moved all my cash from that Bank. I decided to brave on all the queues and the whole tedious process and wasted another three hours in that bank but vowed never to return.

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Everyone has their own frame of reference, which heavily influences what they do and how they do it. Customers, for instance, care intensely about their own needs and desires but they don’t generally know or care as much about how companies are organized.

Employees also have their individual frames of reference; which often includes a deeper understanding of products, company organization, and subject ,If left unchecked, decisions made inside of companies will often reflect the frame of reference of employees, not customers. We sometimes call this problem self-referential design.

Here are some implications of this law:

  • You know more than your customers; deal with it. You can’t eliminate your biases, but it helps to acknowledge them. Recognize that customers may not understand things like product names, acronyms, and process steps that you regularly discuss at work. So there’s a natural bias for making experiences too complicated for customers. Get in the habit of asking yourself: “Would our target customers fully understand this?”
  • Don’t sell things, help customers buy them. Whenever you’re thinking about a customer experience, always try and frame it from the customer’s point of view. Look at all interactions as an opportunity to help customers to do something. How can you institutionalize this? Infuse the voice of the customerwithin your processes.
  • Don’t let company organization drive experiences. Just because you have separate organizations running your Website, retail stores, and call center does not permit you to make customers jump through hoops. Customers shouldn’t have to know (and they certainly don’t care) how you are organized.
  • .The bottom line: Make the shift from self-centeredness to customer-centeredness.



Author: Kate_ Mwamba

Financial and lifestyle blogger

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