Sibongile Mafu

Banks get a sense of humour

2013-08-29 08:25

Sibongile Mafu

We all know there's nothing funny about parting with your money.

In a perfect world we'd all love to keep our money underneath our Sealy Posturepedics, but it is 2013. If you're not dealing in tik and nyaope, your money needs to live in a bank. And with all the competition about, we all know banks need to make what they offer appealing to the regular Joe.

Lately I've noticed a trend among banks in South Africa - using comedians to convince me to buy what they're selling, from Eugene Khoza with Nedbank and Trevor Gumbi and Allan Committee with Standard Bank. Nedank has also been using musicians to peddle their wares - the likes of Zahara and Freshkyground's  Zolani Mahola have all featured in a billboard or television advertisement or two for the green bank. There's a definite shift to make banking more accessible and approachable. Maybe it's a tactic to make you forget how broke you are so you can laugh and sing through the pain.

On social media, the big banks are making a concerted effort to make banking more accessible, with FNB using fictitious character RB Jacobs to answer consumer queries and complaints. RB can also take and shell out a joke or two. He or she or it has definitely been an effective tool for FNB to be in touch with its customers, and entice new ones to their side of the fence.

I then look over Eugene Khoza telling me about serious things like Nedbank home loans and I briefly forget about how serious it all, appreciating the fact that banks are trying to make themselves less imposing and threatening.

One of the campaigns I am seriously impressed with (which has also drawn on humour) is Capitec's "Ask Why" campaign. I know I spend my days asking "why"” mostly when it's a few days before pay day and I'm standing in front on an ATM, asking myself how and why I got to this point, but also serious questions around how we do our banking.

Capitec has tried to promote the idea that banking can be made simpler. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs as they are commonly known) are not a new thing. Humans are generally curious and questioning beings, but how easy it is to accept things how we've always done them. Capitec decided to challenge themselves and the public to send through those questions that often feel like they never get answered.

And their Twitter page has a cheeky presence too, subtly questioning why competitors do what they do, often retweeting  the frustrated questions asked by customers at rival banks.

In all of this, banks have found a semblance of humour in how they operate, which is appreciated. It can be incredibly frustrating when you feel your bank doesn't "get it", and getting prompt responses from them certainly helps.

This is also a sign of the times, especially around how service providers deal with their customers. Gone are the walls that separated them, and the glass panelled counters that kept customers at an arm's length.

With all that said, I still value professionalism and efficiency when I deal with my service providers, but there's no reason we can't share a chuckle along the way. If you can at least fool me into thinking that your business has a semblance of a personality, I'm more likely to stay with you.

There's nothing worse than money leaving your pocket and not liking who it goes to.

- Sibongile is a videographer, blogger and social media enthusiast who would be nothing without her thumbs. Follow her on Twitter: @SboshMafu.

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