Last week, I was at a First Bank branch in Oyo, Oyo State to resolve some knotty issues with my account.
It was a rather complicated process that had me (for four days) commuting from home to bank till the matter was redressed.
You know, as a deaf person, going to a bank to resolve such complicated issue without an interpreter to help oou during those odd moments when deafness gets you “eeh, eehing, and what did you say ing” because you didn’t get the words of the bank attendant can be very stressing and embarrassing.
Furthermore, since not many of these busy people have the patience to communicate by writing, I felt some unease.
Fortunately, I had a nice, “Deaf friendly” experience. One worth holding up for other corporate brands to emulate.
My first feel of the First Bank brand “Deaf friendly customer service” begins with Chief Security Officer, CSO Faleh Olufemi Thomas. This humble and unassuming guy epitomized customer service and servant-leadership at its finest.
I only had to clearly explain why I was at the bank and wouldn’t want to be embarrassed just because I am Deaf. From there, Thomas, with calm reassurance, took over. He personally led me to the right quarters to get my issues resolved.
And he didn’t stop there.
Ever mindful of minute and big details, he was there for me when I needed a pen to write with, a chair to sit, or a court affidavit to clear the inconsistencies in bank account information.
Thomas made the whole process way easier for me.
I took mental notes as I watched him dart here and there in a “no condition attached” helpfulness to other bank customers.
Here’s the gist: “the impact of great souls like this in casting an entire organization/brand in good lights should never be underestimated.
Management should take note and build on these rare personnel assets which often go unnoticed.
My Deaf friendly First Bank experience didn’t stop with CSO Thomas Faleh.
The male attendant who handled my case was the polite and business like type. Still, the communication barrier notwithstanding, he took pains, amid other pressing demands to help me understand the “whys” and “whats” of my case.
One time I felt my right infringed on, he was quick to make a redress. What’s more, it took his personal intervention to remove a last minute administrative bottleneck to resolution of the issue with my account at the cash out department. Another commendable one.
Moving to the forex counter, I encountered another pleasant personality. We haggled good-naturedly over exchange rates and when he wasn’t willing to shift ground I decided to try my luck outside the bank – against better judgement.
This dude, he graciously agreed, and even offered some wise counsel. Long story short.
My choice backfired.
I had to return to the bank, and even then he remained gracious enough to not turn me down.
The lady Teller at the deposit counter was the icing on the cake on that memorable encounter. While attending to me she tried to confirm the amount I was depositing.
“#7000 right,” she repeated?
But deafness played a fast one on me and I responded: “savings account”.
Her facial expression betrayed her confusion and I instinctively sensed I had given an odd answer.
At this realization, I explained to her that I’m deaf. That she repeat what she just said. This time I correctly lip-read her and responded accordingly.
Still something about her expression told me she had doubts. When I asked if she’d ever attended to a deaf customer, she answered in the negative.
Then her expression slowly lit up.
Perhaps, it was my question. Or it might have been my deliberately drawled speech.
She managed a small smile. I responded with a bigger smile. Then an intent gaze. Our eyes locked.
A magic moment followed. She smiled backed, and for some fleeting seconds we smiled intently at each other – eyes interlocking.
You know that sensation of butterflies in the stomach – that fluttering of the heart that comes with romantic emotions.
No, it wasn’t Eros. It was the feeling of meeting someone of the opposite gender for the first time and she/he seemed to accept and appreciate you just as you are – dignity, disability, worth, warts and all.
I left the bank in high spirits and with fresh ideas for the Disability Inclusion Crusade.
PS: I am writing this piece for two main reasons:
Firstly, it is a sincere commendation of the First Bank brand for the impressive “Deaf considerate” staff response I experienced. It is hoped that this motivates Nigeria’s top banking brand to do more.
Secondly, this write-up seeks to stand as pointer to fellow folks with disabilities on the efficacy of advancing the Disability cause by taking the less traveled path of “commendational advocacy”. Focus on the little, little, courteous treatments.
Conscientiously commend the little things rightly done and sooner or later there will be less of the big wrongs to critize”.
Now, there’s a third and even bigger reason for this piece. However I am reserving that as a challenge for the analytic and inquisitive mind that dares to see the big picture.