Customer service skills of staff under the spotlight as banks and building societies are the only sector in the UK to see satisfaction fall

Banks and building societies have seen their customer satisfaction scores fall, with consumers citing poor complaint handling as a key reason behind their frustration.  The latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) also reveals that whilst banks do ‘get it right first time’ more often than organisations in other sectors, when things do go wrong, it is the extent of staff engagement and empathy that lets organisations down.

Published by the Institute of Customer Service, the UKCSI report for the banks and building societies sector reveals that the way members of staff deal with complaints is one of the weak points in their customer service delivery.  For example, just 21 percent of consumers say their complaints ‘are dealt with immediately’ and only 13 percent said the member of staff they spoke to ‘took responsibility’ for resolving the issue. This has resulted in satisfaction scores falling by almost half a point this year, to 78 (out of 100), after reporting steady increases since 2009.

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However, it is not all bad news for the sector.

With a score of 85.7 (out of 100) first direct tops the sector Index, followed by Nationwide on 83.7.  Both are also listed amongst the top 10 UK organisations in the pan-sector list.  TSB (81.5) and Yorkshire Bank (81.3) are in third and fourth place, respectively, and also feature in the UKCSI’s pan-sector top 50.

Additionally, when asked to think about their most recent contact, 77 percent of customers also suggest that banks and building societies ‘get things right, first time’.  The score is higher for banks and building societies than the UK’s pan-sector results, which are currently 74.4 percent.

Mind the gap

The data shows that where frustrations exist, the most common cause for complaint revolves around staff competence and engagement.   Just 35 percent said staff apologised for errors and only 28 percent believed that staff listened carefully to their problem.

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The biggest gap between banks and building societies and the other 12 sectors analysed in the UKCSI revolves around organisations’ Net Promoter Score (NPS) – the measure showing how likely customers are to recommend an organisation to friends. While the sector has improved its NPS score since January 2015, banks and building societies remain 3.3 points behind the all-sector average of 19.1.

Jo Causon, CEO of The Institute of Customer Service, says: “

‘”It is increasingly apparent that a clear link exists between engaged employees and customer satisfaction.  One cannot exist without the other so to really drive this, a culture of service must be apparent at all levels in an organisation, but it must start at the top. Customers are more concerned today about staff attitudes and behavior than they were even 5 years ago, meaning that it is the responsibility of leaders to continually promote, support and develop employees service skills.  But to succeed, they should not limit their attention to the ‘customer service department’.  In today’s world, every part of a business has to be  customer-facing and unless leaders adopt the mantra that customer service is everyone’s business they risk dissatisfaction levels falling.”

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Channeling customer service

The research also demonstrates how the channels people use to deal with banks are continually changing. Fewer people are using contact centres, compared to this time, last year, while the numbers communicating with their bank through online channels is increasing.

There has, however, been a marginal decline in satisfaction when online communications have been used, suggesting that banks need to improve the customer experience in the digital world.

Causon concludes: “The key is delivering a more personalised, relevant and meaningful experience in an environment of the customers’ choosing.  Banks and building societies need to address this issue quickly or risk losing market share to an increasing array of challenger brands.”

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