Online Financial Transactions and Mobile Apps: My Struggle with their Stupid Processes

First let me give you some info about myself:

  • I am an NRI. As such, I am not staying in my address in India and in fact, my apartment in India remains locked when I am abroad.
  • I have changed my employment at least five times so far and lived in different countries while pursuing my employment therein.
  • I had to change my mobile number in India due to some technical problem.
  • While I have Aadhar Card and a PAN Card, I do not have an Election Card.

Here comes the saga of my struggle with online and app transactions:

  1. The first one is the website of a life insurance company. Till about three months back, I used to pay my premia by this website and everything was hunky-dory. Then this life insurance company decided to revamp their website. To register again, they require one One Time Passcode (OTP) to be keyed in and this OTP is sent to mobile number. I am in Qatar and moreover, my mobile number has changed. There is no way I can change mobile number for this website as to activate this site, I need OTP which will be sent to old mobile! Nice Catch 22 situation. One saving grace is that many of my policies are now maturing and this website may not be of much use to me in the coming days!
  2. Then comes one of the big banks in India. They sent their renewed credit card to my address in India and it was returned to them undelivered. They have informed me that they cannot send it to my address in Qatar! They do not inform the way out also. Their credit card website link to change address does not work! I am at wits-end now!
  3. Same bank has an app and they advertise that this app helps NRIs to transact with ease! It was not working when I tried to activate this on my mobile. When I sent an email to their help desk, they inform that this app doesn’t work for NRI customers!
  4. Linking Aadhar Card with my bank account through the website of another large bank does not work for me! I do not know the reason for the error message which I receive when I try this link!
  5. Paying of 1% TDS deducted from payment made to the builder is another tedious thing. The concerned IT website does not work for people outside India!

I can go on and on……..with similar experience with payment banks in India, Mutual Fund websites and many more! (Such as the box for mobile No. of most Indian web-sites do not accept anything less than 10 digits, though people outside India are required to use these sites, same goes with Postal Codes!)

What can be done to overcome these issues? I understand some restrictions are necessary from the security point of view but in most of the cases, it is mere commonsense deficit!

Best customer portals should be easy to navigate.  Customer Engagement is a good way reduce such confusion. It is worthwhile to invite feed-back from users and reward useful feed-back. Also these web-site owning institutions must realize that their aim is customer service, and not customer confusion.

Making the user experience of the portal as seamless as possible has to be main focus throughout the entire design process. In the end, it’s a portal for your users and if they feel confused about the lay-out then you haven’t achieved your goal of clear, simple self-service.

It is also incredibly important for user experience and labeling various items must be easy enough to grasp even for someone who doesn’t really know much.

And finally, do not let go of commonsense while designing the customer portals!

Loving Your Mother Tongue and Being Parochial

Recently my wife and I were travelling from Bengaluru to Bhubaneswar by a flight operated by a leading private airline in India. While flight took off, we were told by an announcement that the Pilot, Co-Pilot, and three of the cabin crew (out of the four cabin crew on that flight) were from Bengaluru. Then we were told that flight crew can speak in three languages i.e., English, Hindi and Punjabi! So all those who hailed from Bengaluru did not speak ‘Kannada’!!!!

This put me off a bit. But it is a true that many of the Bangaloreans do not speak Kannada. Go to any shop in a Mall in Bengaluru, you may have to converse in Hindi to communicate with the salesperson there (who is most likely from one of the North Eastern or Eastern States). Even many of the eating joints in these Malls, including those serving ‘Udupi’ dishes will have staff hailing from Nepal or from North Eastern or Eastern states.

Then, is it too much to expect people of Bengaluru to speak in Kannada? Then, is it not a fact that Bengaluru is a cosmopolitan city? Language, in a cosmopolitan environment, often takes a back seat and what becomes important is the act of communication with the sole purpose of getting the things done or to do business! As long as the person at the other end understands what you want to convey, it’s OK.

I am a Kannadiga but have spent most of my working life outside Karnataka. While I was in the North East, I was posted in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. I did not pick-up any Assamese, Khasi, Bengalee and Mizo while being there. Then I was posted at Kolkatta (it was Calcutta at that time) and managed well without learning Bangla (Kolkatta residents really love South Indians and go extra mile to make them comfortable!). Thereafter, I was posted in Hong Kong and then in Mauritius. In Mauritius, my kids picked up the local dialect, but not me. Next came my posting at Mumbai and in seven years I spent in Mumbai, I hardly picked up any Marathi.

Then I moved to Middleast, first Kuwait and then Qatar. I am yet to learn Arabic, though I did seriously try.  I am not proud of this fact but I am in good company, as most of the expats here do not understand or speak Arabic.

While learning the local language is very much desirable for outsiders, being parochial in this aspect may not be desirable at all. This is mainly because insistence on local language dealings might bring in obstacles in getting needed talents, in integrating with the global economy and ultimately in achieving progress. World is fast moving towards transacting in languages such as English, which is a foreign language to many. Yet, people learn English as it is the medium for higher education, language for computers and mobile handsets!

Let’s learn as many languages as possible but let’s also not force our language on others!