State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has restricted commercial banks not to market their products and services via calls made by customers for a query or issue because this increases their call expenses, which is unfair.
Marketing of banks’ products/services on incoming consumer calls at their expense is completely unjust. SBP directed that banks should make outbound calls or deploy toll-free numbers for marketing, telesales, etc.
Every commercial or microfinance bank manages a call center to facilitate customers for dealing their issues and queries related to services, however, banking customers face various issues including unavailability of the phone bankers for many minutes, which tests their patience and costs them extra since the call time gets prolong.
A majority of bankers do not have sufficient staff to manage the number of queries their staff receives at call centers so these banks use advertisements of their products and services, which is a highly unethical practice.
The central bank stated these instructions in its guidelines for commercial banks on the operations, management, and practices of call centers and phone bankers.
Major Guidelines For Banks Call Centers
Call Center is considered as one of the growing needs of the banking industry especially in the wake of digital transformation. Hence, banks should have a comprehensive policy and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) on call center management.
SBP directed that banks should ensure that the consumers are explicitly informed about their calls being recorded at the call centers.
Banks should record all inbound and outbound calls and retain the recordings in line with the record-keeping requirement.
In order to ensure consumer confidentiality, adequate controls should be in place including but not limited to continuous CCTV vigilance, physical entry and exit checks, non-accessibility to portable devices or cell phones, controlled accessibility to printers, emails, etc. at the Call Centers. Banks should also maintain and monitor comprehensive logs of call agents’ system based activities.
SBP instructed that banks should have an independent reporting line of Call Centers to avoid conflict of interest.
Banks also need to have adequate IT controls, contingency setups and Disaster Recovery Infrastructure for their Call Centers.
Banks should ensure adequate IT systems in line with the scope of their Call Centers having options of Interactive Voice Response (IVR), Automated Call Distribution (ADC), a combination of physical and knowledge-based authentication tools, etc.
Banks should assess the performance of their Call Centers on regular basis and may use independent tools like mystery calls, consumer surveys, employees’ feedback, etc. Further, following parameters/Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) may be adopted with appropriate benchmarks as per international best practices, SBP added.
In case of outsourcing of call center function or its HR resources, relevant instructions on Outsourcing issued by SBP should also be complied with.
Banks are advised to implement the above guidelines by December 31, 2018.
These guidelines are a good and much-needed step from the central bank but issues related to trained staff and self-operated phone banking system should also be addressed in next step if not now.