The future has arrived - Emirates NBD pilots video-ATM

You are at your bank's ATM and you can't access your account balance. Or perhaps you've forgotten how to deposit a cheque or can't recall your pin number - so what do you do?

Well, you can either dial the bank's call centre from your mobile phone or, if you are in a branch and it's out of hours, use the hotline to speak directly to an agent. Failing that, go home, log into your account and send a private message to the customer service team.

It's a long-winded and rather roundabout way of getting the problem solved. But Emirates NBD (ENBD), one of the Middle East's largest banks, has come up with an innovative solution for its customers to ensure they get the result they want instantly. How? By offering video technology that allows you to speak directly to a customer service agent right there and then.  This is a technological milestone not only for the UAE, but also the Middle East with only a few financial institutions in Europe and the US rolling out such an interactive customer service to date.

So how does it work?  When you stumble on a problem, simply select the video-chat option and an agent will pop up on the ATM screen ready to solve your issues. At least that's how we assume the scenario will play out because to find out exactly how this technology will work, you need to pop along to GITEX next week (October 9-13), where a video-enabled ATM machine will be on display at the ENBD and Avaya stand.  Avaya, a global leader in business communications, has teamed up with ENBD for the past seven years, ensuring they have one of the best customer-service networks in the region.  The deal between the two is simple: Avaya provides the technology and the bank decides how it wants to use it, which is why ENBD wants people to try the machine for themselves so that they can use their feedback to tweak the service to fit customers' needs.  "Our business development team will then decide what we will provide our customers and select which branches to place the video-ATMs," says Ali Sajwani, the chief information officer at ENBD.

The video-chat technology will initially be available at up to 10 of the bank's 750 ATMs in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the Northern Emirates.  Mr Sajwani adds: "We will place the technology in branches where there are only four or five machines as we do not want a situation where we create queues because customers are being held up by someone speaking to an agent via the ATM. We will also provide a headset because you don't want people to hear a confidential conversation with an agent."  This is not the only first for ENBD when it comes to customer service. The bank was the first to offer internet banking in the UAE and the first to offer IP telephony. Now, as it begins its journey to launch another technological first, it is relying on your feedback to help them get it right.

Alice Haine, The National