UK banks have been constantly racing to win consumers’ hearts digitally. While some banks such as First Direct and Clydesdale Bank topped the customer satisfaction poll, UK’s “big four” banks – Llyods, HSBC, RBS and Barclays – failed to secure any top positions in the 2015 survey of more than 10,000 current account customers for uSwitch.com. The differentiating factor lies in understanding the new digital trends and the impact on customer satisfaction. Basically, how banks put themselves in their customers’ shoes.
Despite the strong urge for banks to transform to digital, banks and credit unions continue to face difficulties as customers encounter confusing websites, unacceptable call center wait times, and issues when they use certain channels that do not work. Against all odds, these banks managed to outshine their competitors for customer service in 2015 and here’s why:
Santander is an example of a bank that fights back in the war of digital and successfully emerges as a winner, bouncing back from the complaints incident in 2010, when the Spanish-owned bank took over Alliance & Leicester customers with a different computer system. Although the customer service issues persisted into 2011, matters managed to improve. Nowadays, the bank is even rated highly for its service by Defaqto, an independent financial research company. Santander stepped up its efforts in refurbishing its branches, introducing new “streamlined” products such as a credit cards offering up to 23 months of 0% interest on balance transfers and payments. They have even introduced a new free online banking app called Smartbank, for iPhone and Android users, that significantly helps customers manage their own finances.
TSB is a stand-alone bank launched in September 2014, that, after splitting from Llyods due to EU competition rules, successfully controlled its customer service issues. In February 2015, TSB was named as the bank with the worst customer service in a poll of almost 9,000 people. To resolve this issue, TSB made several improvements to its customer service, such as canceling all of its 0845 numbers so customers are not charged a high rate when calling the bank, extending opening hours in branches and introducing an automated service so people can let the bank know when they are planning on using their card abroad at their convenience.
Nationwide did really well in terms of the customer satisfaction index. It was recognised for “excellent” customer service after a study from Market Force Information, a consumer research company, found that the building society beat its rivals when it came down to customer satisfaction. What Nationwide has done differently is invest heavily in the branch network by deploying NCR software solutions, comprising of NCR Connections and NCR Activate to decrease the building society’s dependence on legacy systems and streamlining duplicated processes. The technology also reduced the time and cost for new banking services, as they get delivered across all channels, ultimately enabling Nationwide to provide more value to customers via its self-service solutions.
First Direct sweeps the board, topping nine of the twelve categories, including the coveted Best Current Account as well as Most Trusted and Best Customer Service in the poll conducted by uSwitch.com. This is because the bank is obsessed with delivering amazing customer service and it believes in recruiting talent with positive attitudes. It is easier to teach people banking skills than to try and change someone’s personality. Consequently, the bank avoids scripting as much as possible and empowers its people to resolve an issue the first time. First Direct is extremely confident in its customer service to the point that the banks will pay £100 to new customers who switch to its First Account, and it will give you a further £100 if you chose to close the account within the first 12 months.
To drive customer engagement and capture a greater share of the digital opportunity, banks must focus on their customer experience and go beyond just transactions. Instead, banks and credit unions should endeavour to create engaging and personalised interactions, including finding out where customers are communicating, be it forums, aggregators, or social media, and ultimately, build a presence and voice in those conversations. Last but not least, we have all heard so much about ‘big data;’ now is the time to rise to the in-branch challenge and adapt to new formats and digitally-enabled features to reflect evolving customer behaviours and needs. With this in mind, I hope you are fully-geared for an even better customer experience in 2016!back