Building better ATMs: Lessons from Demonetization

Published: November 14, 2016 at 11:07 am

Last Updated on

Here are few lessons l learnt about ATMs usage in the wake of demonetization of Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 notes. These are observations based on an evening walking tour of about 15 ATMs around my house for the past three days.

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Now off to the ATMs:

A quick tip for those who wish to draw cash, check machines of lesser known banks: Federal Bank, Oriental Bank of Commerce, Vijaya Bank etc.

ATMs should display if they are functioning or not in English and the local language

I saw two people try twice, receive a printed advice and go away in disappointment. One of them thought his account did not have any. When I checked, there was a “Cash not available” sign in the opening screen. If it had been in the local language, many would not waste time trying or get the wrong idea.

ATMs should not print out a “Cannot process at this time” advice

Some ATMs did not have the above message, allowed the user to “log in” (so to speak), only to cough out a receipt with the above message? Waste of paper! Instead, they should do the above.

ATMs Should display balance before I enter the amount to be withdrawn

Many people  use the ATM to check the balance (with a printed advice) once and then use it again to withdraw. This is a serious waste of time and paper. Many ATMs can recognise the account holder name when the card is inserted. Why can’t it display balance before the amount to be withdrawn is entered? At the very least it can say, “enter an amount lower than XXX” to warn people that they do not have enough balance.

This is also true if an amount more than the machine can dispense is entered. ATMs need to be a lot more interactive than they are now.

ATMs should not print anything

Why print the receipt? Most people read it and drop it right on the floor and not in the dustbin next to the machine. Anyway, there is going to be an SMS and an entry in the account statement. That is good enough.

Photo by Scott Schiiler
ATM receipts, even delightful ones like these (not from India) are a waste or paper. Photo by Scott Schiller

ATMs are not friendly enough for the low-income group

The above observations should make it clear that ATMs are not friendly enough for the low-income segment of our population who do not have access to net banking and therefore do not have an online bank account.

The bank should educate them about receiving account balance via SMS. Even if the ATMs do not display this, at least they will save themselves a trip to the ATM when they realise that their salary has not yet been credited. But then again, sending such an SMS is a pain.

What do you think? How do you think ATM usage can be improved?

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