Is GTBank Human or Machine? – Victor Asemota

Editor’s Note: Is GTBank Human or Machine is a post by Victor Asemota and was first published on BigChief’s Thougts, where he shares his perspective on African  Technology and Enterprise. You can follow him on Twitter, and friend him on Facebook.

There is something troubling me about Nigerian payments and it is not just our poor infrastructure but also our attitude to delivering service. A lot of the work we do as a professional services company is largely proactive support and what that means is that we never let the bad things happen before we fix it. We anticipate possible snags and can tell easily from the rate of growth in traffic that we could possibly hit a bottleneck and advice the client to take proactive measures or we proactively take those measures if we can within our own scope of work.

We became that way because we learned from seeing bad things happen. We have seen the catastrophic effects of downtime on customer confidence. We have seen that if you lose confidence it takes years to try to rebuild it and it is a costlier effort to try to do this than to have proactive support. It has been our biggest selling point to those who have felt the pain and it is also our biggest weakness with those who do not really understand what we do. Some clients will think that we just have a bunch of people sitting and waiting around for bad things to happen but that is very far from the truth. We have those people there to help prevent other people from making bad things happen.

A majority of the time, downtime in Africa is not caused by hardware or software failure but “people failure”. You cannot use scripts to monitor people, you have to interact with them and sometimes reason with them to let them know the impact of a seemingly harmless decision further down the line on a transactions platform with multiple integration points.

GTBank probably has the best payment gateway in Nigeria and several people use their service. They used to respond to complaints very quickly but recently it seems their service levels are going down south at an alarmingly increasing rate. Right now their internet banking service works sporadically and I made a complaint almost 24 hours ago and still have no response.

A couple of months ago I tried to buy a ticket online with my Mastercard (via the ghastly Quickteller site that I can barely stand) and was billed 3 times for one ticket. It was obvious the integration points between Slimtrader, QuickTeller, Air Nigeria and GTbank were messed up but I had no business with the merchant or the payment processor but my own bank as the card was theirs.

It took almost two months before I got 86,000 Naira back. Nobody told me sorry after that and nobody paid me back any interest for the loss of income from my money being tied down. All I got was a mail about 2 months later saying that the problem had now been resolved. I actually considered suing them but realized I would spend much more than the 86,000 Naira on the slow Nigerian legal system. Most likely wait years before I got heard and probably by that time all the players would have imploded from consistently bad service.

That experience made me realize the importance of back-office processes more than ever in a place like Nigeria. For any payments or transactions processor, your back-office is the most vital service point. It is not about fancy front ends or all the work we do as technical consultants. It is about human beings interacting with other human beings to quickly solve largely process related problems.