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Claire Richardson

The crisis of 2008 still looms large in the consciousness of many financial institutions’ retail customers. For all the good work going on within the country’s banks, it’s clear that they still have a long way to go before the industry regains its trusted status.

Recent research carried out by Ipsos MORI and the Customer Contact Association (CCA), investigated the relationships between consumers and banks and credit-card companies, working to shed light on the attitudes and behaviour of consumers towards these organisations, and those in charge of serving them at the organisations themselves. The results threw up a great deal of fascinating detail, but most interesting of all was the sharp disparity between customers’ overall satisfaction levels, and their attitudes towards the companies responsible for that satisfaction.

Claire Richardson

Claire Richardson

Some 66% of consumers professed themselves happy with service they receive from their bank, and some 74% with that of their credit-card provider – which is very good considering the recent past – but (and this is a big but), only 24% said that they thought companies would take notice of their views (Research figures relate to responses across nine sectors (banks, credit card providers, insurance providers, mobile phone providers, home broadband providers, home phone providers, utilities providers, high street retailers and supermarkets)). Moreover, only 29% of consumers disagreed with the statement ‘providing feedback is pointless’. That’s an unfortunate state of affairs for an industry striving to improve its image, and working to reassure its customers that it is listening and responding to its their concerns. It is particularly galling for the industry in light of rapidly improving customer satisfaction. Indeed, the study also showed that, while there is still room for improvement, almost all companies in the UK do take note of customer feedback, and use it to improve business processes, service protocols and business management.

There’s clearly a golden opportunity for financial institutions to improve customer service levels by gaining a better understanding and taking action on customer insights. In short, by tackling the customer’s ignorance of a process that is already very well developed. Indeed, it is a relatively simple public relations and marketing task to make customers aware of how their feedback is used to improve services, and to make them aware of the value that companies place on their input. In many sectors (local government is a good example) this approach is relatively common, and a more concerted effort to do so in consumer finance would go a long way towards rebuilding trust in the industry. In fact, it would have many other positive consequences, as customers who feel that their input is valued are more likely to give it in the first place – and the more feedback a company can collect, the more insight it will have into how its services and products are perceived by the customer that use them.

The technology to do this is getting better all the time, and there is no reason to ignore the benefits that can be gained from real-time analysis of customer feedback and input to get a 360 view of their wants and needs. The study shows that a conversational approach to feedback can help to consolidate a hard core group of ‘brand champions’ – engaged, satisfied and loyal customers, who will not only provide regular and useful feedback, but will recommend and advocate the company to friends, family and acquaintances, both in person and on social media.  This could be a better way to build trust than anything the marketing department could ever do.

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