Monday, July 01, 2013

Of tokens, banks and weddings.....

Sometimes, you get new ideas in the most unexpected ways.  And this one was triggered by a phone call from the bank.

One afternoon , there was a call from a different branch of my bank.  They wanted to know details of a transaction done through them 7 years ago.  And they were asking this, of someone, who could not remember where she kept the pickle bottle yesterday.

Someone was then, scheduled to send conference fees to China, and these had to be sent using some specific SWIFT code. Since we hadn't dealt with such stuff earlier, we went to our bank, only to be told that yes, they did have this facility, but the person responsible had fractured his hand, was on leave,  no one else could do this(!), and we should go to another branch some kilometres away and do the needful.  With great reluctance they agreed to call someone there before we went.

A massively crowded branch on a main eastern thoroughfare, in the industrial commercial belt, and we spent 2 hours there , in an elevated area , getting our work done and watching the milling crowds on the lower level.

This was the branch that had now called and wanted to verify our antecedents.

But seven years later  ?

While I refused to answer an unknown voice asking questions,  told them to verify our transaction details with our branch and troubled some lady who was only doing what she was told (she said that to me),  other details about that bank branch, came back to me vividly. 

At a time when our branch was still dodging snaking lines opposite various tellers based on account numbers, these folks had graduated to token numbers, and the huge number of customers, sat facing the tellers, in chairs placed in lines, in what I call "wedding-reception style" .

Which actually gave me some ideas.

 How many times, have you attended weddings, and stood in a long line that moved at snail's speed as folks went up to wish the bridal couple , and got clicked for posterity in their kanjeevarams ?  How many times, have you felt like sitting down for a while on the set on empty chairs , all facing the stage  ?  And how many times have you decided to eat first hoping most folks would have done the wishing line by then ?

Here is where we learn from banks.

 Every one at entry, at any wedding, along with haldi, kumkum, pedha, rose, perfume and rosewater spray , must also get a token number (one per family).  You go in, find yourself a nice seat , say, next to friends or whatever, and enjoy some innovative cool drinks being circulated.

Way up amidst the floral Ganpati, blinking lights, and bouquets stuck at an angle in the background on stage, there would be  an electronic board , that would display, say , 4  token numbers at a time, updating as and how each was "used up". Folks with those token numbers, would amble up to the stage, carefully climb up, and do their stuff, wishing the couple, gifting, folks touching their feet , so on and so forth,  As soon as their feet step off the exit ramp , a sensor would remove their number from the board and the next in line would automatically come up.


Think. You conserve your energy. You drink. You notice the in-law side folks sitting way up in front.  Suitably separate. You notice who is wearing what as they arrive on stage. You have detailed conversations with interested folks on the possible cost of the 25 kilo outfit worn by the  bride.  Then other people get to do the same when its your turn to go up, and you get a closeup of the folks on stage, and the 25 kilo outfit, and the beads of perspiration as a result of all that weight.

Such a civilized method.  No need for hundreds to lean on one foot and then the other, in their uncomfortable mandatory finery, while sudden VIP's are ushered on to the stage.

Of course, like all systems , this one will also have hiccups. There will be unconcerned folks who dash up to the stage the wrong way, to relay a message , triggering a confused response from the sensor.  There are kids who might climb up directly on to the stage, enamoured by the throne like chairs in red velvet with gold embroidery. There may even be a perfectly valid tokened guest, in the habit of skipping steps, who simply misses the step with the sensor that senses exits, causing the numbers to stall ...

There may be people who enter without a token number. You cannot send them home like the Passport Seva Kendra does.  So you club them with a family already having a token.  Of course, the possibility of this facility being grossly abused cannot be denied.  There will be unreturned tokens, lost tokens, found tokens.

You can of course link your cell phone number to the token number, and design a system that sends you a message two numbers before yours.

Depending on the total number of guests expected over a finite number of hours, folks can decide on he optimum quantity  of token numbers on display at any given time above the dais.

Wedding planners will have various types of Apps they will offer for streamlining the "Meet the couple" token system.

As an example of what limits one may go to, chips can be embedded in the grooms mojris or shoes, that simply turn the token-no display completely off, once he , along with the bride, descends the stage , via the exit ramp, to finally go home. 

I mean, the sky is the limit. 

But then, I look at the people in my bank branch today, sitting with tokens and troubled expressions, in chairs arranged wedding-reception style, waiting for hours, because the number of open windows are not enough. And sometimes, the person that you wish to meet, suddenly gets up, and goes away,  the minute you reach the window. 

No bank has folks going around offering cold drinks to clients, or even nice chilled water. Some banks do that for "preferred" customers, but we are talking about those who check their passbooks again and again, out of habit.

Maybe ,as a quid pro quid,  they, the banks,  can learn something from weddings as they are held today, .

Have round glass tables for people to sit and wait at. Keep Bisleri bottles at the centre.  Along with some decent glasses.   And small counters on each table that display the current token number being processed.  Instead of folks going around with cold drinks, have bank assistants going around asking folks what work they have come for, and guide them to the appropriate person, in or outside the window.

The possibilities are endless.  The sky is the limit, for services. 

But somehow, I think the weddings are winning, and the banks are coming a poor second.

Unlike weddings, it isn't very pleasant being welcomed by a tough looking fellow in a uniform, and holding a gun.  Just saying....


1 comment:

  1. Hahaha.I loved the way you described wedding reception scenario and loved the suggestions to employ the technology to make things easy for guests.All of these are plausible ,I believe in not so distant future ,with private sector being the only player in wedding industry. Can't say the same about Public sector banks. They clearly lack willingness to change or compete.
    I am still smiling while typing my words.