In conversation with the Call Centre, Bank Muscat

MUSCAT, MAY 12 – The Call Centre has a calm ambience but the call centre staff are in conversations with customers each with a query that is unique to them. A digital monitor indicates in colours the number of calls that are currently online and the duration of each of the call — the shorter, the better. This is the Bank Muscat Call Centre with call centre staff who are well versed in products of the banks as well as in handling emotions simply because the person on the other side is human. While there are automated
voices that give instructions that make it possible to execute self banking, here at the Call Centre it is the real voices that are answering calls 24/7.
The Call Centre went through two phases. The phase one was from the inception of the call centre in 2000 and all the way to 2010 where it was a humble beginning with 10 call centre staff and two supervisors receiving about 10,000 calls a month at that time.
Today the situation is where the Call Centre receives 10,000 calls a day and the strength of the staff is at 140.
Amjad al Lawati (pictured), AGM — Cards & eBanking, Bank Muscat reflected with Observer: “By 2010 we had begun to receive about 25,000 calls a month. The same year Bank Muscat embarked on a journey that changed customers’ service experience in the bank where the banking process was reengineered. Therefore all the incoming calls to the branches were diverted to the call centre and it became the hub and centralised point to answer all the customer inquiries.”
According to Al Lawati, from 2010 to 2017 the Call Centre grew rapidly where the hub is handling three million calls a year, which is an average of 250,000 calls a month compared to the humble beginning of 10,000 calls a month.
The 24-hour seven days a week shift is manned by the 140 staff members. Out of the total staff strength 105 of them are call centre staff are handling calls and others are management, operations and facilitating other roles including 12 special call centre staff specialized members of the Fraud Monitoring team.
The fraud monitoring team has a crucial role to play. Not many card users would know there are smart systems at Bank Muscat already ensuring the cards are not being misused by strangers. The indications from the smart system are immediately followed up by the Fraud Monitoring team.
“The Fraud Monitoring team is also part of the Call Centre but their job is not to receive call instead their role is the other way around. They end up making the calls. The team has their eyes on the monitors because the monitors are linked to four other engines looking into the various cards and Omannet payment Gateway as well as our own Fraud Monitoring System,” explained Al Lawati.
Any unusual behaviour or unexpected transaction that happens on a customer’s account based on certain rules that are predefined in these systems will generate an alert to the Fraud Monitoring team.
The team then looks at the alert each individually and performs deep diving into accounts to analyse if this is a genuine transaction or if it is still doubtful. If they find it suspicious the team will then call the customer to confirm if they have performed the transaction. If it is not a genuine transaction they will instantly block the card.
“I remember once I was in a neighbouring country in a shopping mall and we did the first transaction but the place was noisy so I did not hear the phone ring. So by the time I was set for the second transaction the card could not be used. When I looked at my phone there was a call from Fraud Monitoring team which I had missed. They had taken the precaution to temporarily block my card until I reassured them that it was me who was using the card.
On the other hand there was a situation in March when I received messages that stated that my card was used once in Oman and another transaction was made immediately in North America. They had already taken the step to block the card and in fact they had saved me from losing money because someone had successfully attained my card number. I was lucky they had only used it for RO 10. But the Fraud Monitoring team had taken quick action. The next day I got my replacement card. Lot of people may not realise the crucial role the team plays, but lot of Bank Muscat customers may have received similar calls from the team. Hats off to the team,” noted Al Lawati.
In 2017, the Fraud Monitoring team had detected 200,000 alerts not all of those required a phone call at the same time not all of that were made confirmed a fraudulent case explained the AGM for Cards & eBanking, Bank Muscat.
“Depending on what product and system we are looking at certain weeks we have up to 12 per cent to 13 per cent of alerts generated by one of the systems that result as fraud attempt. But the number is not that big as it is only one of the systems that looks into card transactions performed overseas. A special thanks to the team,” said Al Lawati.
In the 140 member team there is also a flow of new comers and they go through two month training period learning about the various products and the systems they might need to use. They also go through training on soft skills on handling customers’ emotions, how to make them relaxed and to contain negative emotions as well as training on trying to channel that energy into different directions.
“There are in house training programmes as well as internationally recognized organisations. Last year every individual went through this training and this year the second round is about to begin,” concluded Al Lawati enthusiastically looking forward to the ongoing development of services as well as skills of the human resources.

Lakshmi Kothaneth