The BPI Wait

automated teller machine

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

I prefer to do most of my banking transactions online. If I can, I avoid going to the bank branch because I hate waiting, more so doing it standing in line. Unfortunately, there are times when I have to go to the bank for some urgent transactions.

BEA: No More Waiting In Line

I was pleasantly surprised to discover Bank of the Philippine Islands’ BEA (BPI Express Assist) earlier this year. BEA eliminates the standing in line part while waiting for your turn at the teller’s counter. BEA is a touch-screen terminal where you input your transaction details; after which a transaction number is automatically printed. You then sit comfortably in one of the many couches while you wait for your turn at the teller’s counter. The numbers are flashed in a large screen that can be seen by everyone. Both transaction time and waiting time is decreased because transaction details have already been keyed-in by the customer and automatically transmitted to the teller.

Cash Deposit Machine: Cash Deposits Credited In An Instant

Last September 10, I went to the bank’s Tomas Morato – Sct. Delgado branch to do a cash deposit. Being a Monday morning, there were many customers. Even if all teller counters were open at that time, I figured maybe I would have to wait for around 30 minutes.

I glanced around the branch and saw the cash deposit machine. I haven’t tried this machine before but I decided to try it then because of time considerations. Plus, there was a sign there that said cash deposits would be credited in an instant! I wonder why I didn’t notice it before. The machine functions essentially like an ATM but accepts cash deposits (paper bills) only. You insert your ATM card in the designated slot and key in your PIN. The money slot opens and you place your bills inside (no envelopes) where the machine tries to figure out the amount you deposited. It displays the denomination, number of bills per denomination and total amount of deposit. You confirm the numbers shown, then you get a receipt.

500 peso bill

Super fast transaction, if all your bills are accepted. When I made the deposit, however, one bill was rejected. I tried to put it back again twice, straightening the corners of the crisp new bill. A bank staff saw me taking too long at the machine and came over to help. Apparently, new bills will be rejected by the machine, if it has one of those commemorative logos that are not part of the regular design of the paper bill.

Hello, Customer Service?

If in-branch transactions in BPI have improved, unfortunately, its express phone banking service has not. You still have to wait for a long time to be attended to by a customer service representative. For me, five minutes of waiting is long already, and I would just hang up the phone and try again later. But you don’t have a choice but to wait when there’s an issue that needs to be resolved immediately.

That particular day, a weekday morning, I waited for more than 10 minutes before I was able to talk to someone. It was a simple matter of resetting an internet banking password that took about 3 minutes only.

Room for Improvement

Through the years, BPI has pioneered many product and service innovations that benefit its customers. That said, the bank still has some opportunities to improve its customer service. Specifically, I would like to see a big improvement in its phone banking service. I don’t know if it’s a staffing or infrastructure problem or both, but the bank needs to act on customers’ long waiting times. I also don’t like the phone banking practice of announcing a new product, service or promo before saying the menu options. I would appreciate if the bank can put a main menu option of having the call directed to a call center representative immediately, instead of having to press many digits and listening to many menu and submenu options.

Bank of the Philippine Islands has been my bank of choice for many years now. Being one of the largest banks in the country, it carries a wide range of products and services. More importantly for me, it has an extensive network of branches. I have chosen to do most of my banking transactions with BPI mainly because of convenience. I hope that it continues its innovative ways of providing quality customer service to the banking public. As for other banks, I hope they soon follow BPI’s lead in providing transaction convenience to its customer base.

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UPDATE (21 Oct 2012):

Yesterday, I posted a link of this blog post to my twitter account (@mas10ph) and tagged @talktobpi. This morning, I received a reply from BPI. I wasn’t expecting a response on a weekend, so this was a welcome surprise.  This goes to show that Twitter can also be used as an effective customer service platform.

Below is BPI’s response to the concerns I raised:

talk to bpi

Thank you, BPI.

Catch Those iButterflies!

sm ibutterfly

SM Supermalls lives up to its tagline “We’ve got it all for you!” as it presented the iButterfly mobile application for the always connected generation last Saturday, May 5 at the SM North EDSA The Block Atrium.

The iButterfly application incorporates the latest technologies in retailing— Augmented Reality, Motion Sensors and Global Positioning System (GPS). Using mobile devices such as iPhones, iPads and Android devices, the combined technologies result in an application that lets you catch virtual butterflies that represent prizes / special offers from participating mall merchants when you are within the mall vicinity itself. Read up on the app details on this website.

The event was entertaining and interactive. Bloggers, shoppers and guests were given a chance to join some games and try out the application to win freebies and prizes. I arrived midway through the event to find the Pass the Message game, sponsored by Smart, ongoing. Afterwards, there was the race to catch the most branded virtual butterflies. It was a lot of fun watching people hoist up their mobile devices in the air hoping to catch those colorful butterflies. Celebrity kid Arkin Magalona won a new TV by being the first to catch seven (7) branded virtual butterflies.

sm ibutterfly

Celebrities like the Magalona family (mom Pia with kids Maxene, Saab and Arkin), all-female band General Luna, stylist Liz Uy, along with some other personalities and bloggers, graced the morning event which was hosted by Raymond Gutierrez.

sm ibutterfly

I didn’t have an iPhone, iPad or an Android device to use in the event itself, but I was able to borrow my nephew’s iPad later at home. I had earlier instructed him to download the iButtefly app, which he did. The interface / menu navigation was easy, but trying to catch those butterflies was another thing. Maybe I had a hard time because I was trying to catch butterflies in the iPad on one hand and taking pictures of the iButterfly experience with the other hand. But maybe if I had a smaller device like an iPhone or Android phone perhaps, I would have had an easier time catching those pesky butterflies.

sm ibutterfly

Below are the butterflies that my nephew and I caught. His catch, which consisted of BDO butterflies, was from SM Fairview on the same day of the SM North EDSA event. Mine were the generic ones which I caught at home. I would love to catch butterflies with freebies or discounts from food establishments.

sm ibutterfly

This new shopping innovation would make it very convenient for shoppers to know the latest products and/or promos of mall tenants, as the info is given in real time when you’re in the mall. However, the act of trying to catch the virtual butterfly with your gadgets in a public place is awkward, especially if you’re using a bigger tablet device (as opposed to a phone). Something like a text message or a picture from a participating store simply appearing on your phone may be better. But then, that wouldn’t be a novelty and might not get the shopper’s attention. Let’s see if this latest technology would catch on and be a permanent feature of our shopping experience.

The iButterfly app was initially launched last Easter Sunday at SM Cyberzone. The SM iButterfly app is in line with the SM iButterfly Hunt promotion which runs from May 5 to June 30. The SM Supermalls iButterfly Hunt runs only in selected SM Supermalls: North EDSA, Mall of Asia, Megamall, Fairview, Southmall, Baguio, Davao, and Cebu. Promo mechanics are posted here.

Go catch those butterflies to get prizes, discounts and freebies!

sm ibutterfly

The Internet Has Changed Our Viewing Habits

If, like me, you’re one of those whose work is based online, much of the information that you come across on a daily basis comes from the internet. Watching television is no longer a necessity as multiple sites online give you access to what’s currently happening not just in our little corner of the globe, but even in outer space.

A week or two ago, there was this news item about a city mayor from the south who tried to prevent a violent demolition of squatter houses. The mayor ended up repeatedly punching a lower ranking city official who only wanted to carry out the orders of the judge to proceed with the demolition. All the action happened in full view of television news crews.

Even if I wasn’t able to watch the news programs on TV that carried the story, I read about the story in the breaking news section of some local news organization’s online edition. A video link was provided, so I watched the news coverage in my own time, not at the time of the TV newscast. That’s content on demand, to be accessed when I want it.

In contrast to content on demand or video on demand, live streaming is a technological breakthrough that lets you view events in real time.

Late one night as I was going to log off from my internet connection, my Twitter feed showed a link to the Atlantis shuttle lift off that will happen in 5 minutes. Great timing! Had I not read my feed at that exact moment, I would have known about that piece of news only on the following day as I read my Yahoo RSS feed that includes the day’s headlines.

After hurriedly sending a short tweet of thanks to the person who gave the link, I just clicked on that link and, together with millions of others in front of their computer or TV screens, silently watched in awe as another team of astronauts blasted off into space.

I should note that the video shown was in High Definition, so you can just imagine the clear picture quality and rich colors that can be seen on the screen.

Of course, the video was recorded. So anytime that I want to, I can do a search for the video link and watch it again.

Being readily available worldwide, internet broadcasts have the added advantage of reaching more viewers, not just the local TV audience. And that means more participants in discussions of issues and more points of view being brought forward.

Below, in a live streaming (courtesy of ABS-CBN news) of the Senate investigation on the PCSO issue, instead of listening to the annoying pleas of different officials asking to be excused from the investigation because of some illness, you can mute the volume and just read from the Twitter feed the important points raised during the proceedings. (Oh wait, yes, you can also do that on TV.)

Gone now are the days that one will have to fight to get a chance to watch a TV show, because another person is already watching a different show in another channel. Now, with the internet, you can watch a TV show whenever you want to.

Another Facebook Crime: Uncommon Sense

A female call center agent is robbed and knifed to death by a friend whom she had just met through Facebook. This follows another Facebook crime that happened just this week. The incident involved ABS-CBN director Ricky Rivero who luckily escaped death when he was stabbed several times by a male friend whom he had supposedly recently met though the social networking site. View the news report video here.

These situations got me thinking about how it is now easy to have lots of friends through the internet via social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and through text messaging. On the other hand, the same situations also highlight how some people must feel so lonely that they forget about common sense and invite people whom they have just met through text or online inside their home. Tragically, sometimes one’s own life is the cost of gaining a new Facebook friend or text mate.

People, be honest here. Do you approve every friend request that you get even if you don’t have any idea who that person is? Just because someone requesting to be your friend is a friend of a Facebook friend, do you automatically approve the request even if you don’t know the requester? Do you reply to text messages asking for you to be text mates? If you answered yes to any of the questions, you may find yourself in big trouble soon.

How do you protect yourself against these Facebook crimes? Be careful what information you post online. You can use Facebook’s privacy controls to share some  information to certain people only. Don’t be in a hurry to take a new online friendship offline. Wait a while, like, hmmm… a year maybe? When meeting online friends face to face for the first time, take someone else with you. And go to a public place. Or why don’t you hang out instead with family and friends whom you’ve known for some time? Reach out and take a chance with family and old friends. Get creative and find ways to have fun times together.

I think social networking is great to meet new friends, but you also get exposed to new dangers. So be safe. And stay safe.

Where do you work?

When people ask me, “Where do you work?” I often tell them, “I usually work at home.”

work at home

Then I also say, “But sometimes I work in a coffee shop.”

work in coffee shop

“Or in a restaurant.”

work in a restaurant

Yes, I can work anywhere I want. Anytime I want. And that’s what I like best about doing Virtual Assistant (VA) work. I choose the projects I would like to work on. I choose projects where I don’t have to log in and out at specified times. I just have to submit the finished product on the previously agreed upon date. For me, these projects are mostly writing jobs that I can work on practically anywhere. I don’t even have to bring my laptop all the time. When I already have a topic to write on, I just need pencil and paper, and off I go where inspiration might find me.

Would you want the same kind of work? Learn more about doing VA work from the person I learned it from, Jomar Hilario. He will be conducting another “How to Work from Home” seminar in Manila on May 28. If you’re not based in Manila, a more practical option would be joining the online version of the seminar. Read all about it on his webpage.

Twitter Power

Twitter is one of my main distractions when doing online work.

I first tried the service last year, and I lasted for about two weeks.

“Grocery shopping at SM”
“Coffee at Starbucks before going home”

I would imagine someone responding with, “SOOO???!!!” or “Who cares?!!!” Actually, a more realistic fear is not having anyone respond at all at anything I’ve posted.

I may have posted an original tweet or two, responded to a few tweets, retweeted more. But I felt foolish for not having followers whom I personally know. I just couldn’t understand the logic of using the service for non-celebrity people like me. Who would bother to know what I’m doing at any moment? Why would anyone want to announce to the whole twitter world what they’re doing or thinking?

So I deleted my account.

Fast forward to January this year. I decided to give Twitter another try because I see that many businesses and personalities have jumped into the Twitter bandwagon aside from having a Facebook presence. Being the news junkie that I am, I opened a new Twitter account and now am happily following news sites, news persons (persons connected with news organizations) and a few celebrities and businesses.

I still don’t tweet about boring personal stuff like what I’m currently doing, where I’m shopping or who I’m with at the moment. (Although I do participate in contests and raffles to win prizes.)

Most of the time I just read the tweet feed and reply only to those I have a strong opinion on. I retweet also those things I think should be known by my 5 or so followers. I share my thoughts to those who ask for them. And it feels great when people in the news or others instantly respond to my tweets. At least I know who among those I follow manage their own account, as opposed to having an assistant who take care of their tweets.

News sites or media persons with Twitter accounts often ask for people’s opinions on the day’s events. I’d like to think that I help contribute to a healthy online information sharing environment. This way too, I get to have my voice heard in public issues. In the Philippines, a couple of issues being hotly debated these days in Twitter is the one on the Reproductive Health (RH) bill and the other, on whether the late President Marcos deserves to be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Cemetery of Heroes). People can voice out their thoughts freely. Hopefully, policymakers would listen to all and discern what is best for everyone. Same thing goes for businesses. People who follow businesses share their experiences and opinions on products and services. Hopefully too, companies take note of all feedback and work on making their products and services better.

Now I get the value of Twitter to ordinary mortals like me. I love Twitter because it generates public opinion that brings about change for the better. Long live Twitter Power!!!