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  • More than 1.6 million British bank customers say they are being left on hold for more than ten minutes a month, equivalent to over two hours per year
  • Almost half (42 per cent) said they don’t think brands are aware of their previous dealings when they get in touch, and 85 per cent say repeating information reduces their opinion of the company
  • 41 per cent think brands have got better at email, but 23 per cent think they’ve got worse at phone calls and 21 per cent say they’re worse at letters

UK banks are keeping customers on hold for more than 3.3 million hours every year, new research reveals. The research, from customer engagement technology company Thunderhead, also found that more than 1.6 million British bank customers said they are placed on hold for more than ten minutes every month as they are transferred from one department to another, equating to over two hours a year.

According to Thunderhead, often customers who have multiple accounts have to wait while they are transferred between separate departments. Almost two thirds (63 per cent) of UK banking customers have multiple banking products with a single provider, and more than half (52 per cent) of them say that they are left on hold while they are transferred between departments. One in ten (10 per cent) said they are forced to spend more than 10 minutes on hold while they wait to speak to the relevant company representative, adding up to more than two hours per year per customer.

The amount of time customers are being left stranded due to siloed departments seems to be an indicator of a wider problem coordinating conversations. Almost half (42 per cent) of those surveyed said they don’t think brands are aware of their previous dealings when they get in touch, while 85 per cent said that having to repeat the same information to different people reduces their opinion of the company. One in ten (12 per cent) said that having to repeat themselves impacts their opinion so much that they’ll look for another provider.

The research also reveals differences across the range of communications channels their bank is using. Some 41 per cent of British banking customers felt their bank’s email correspondence has improved over the last three years, but 23 per cent thought banks have deteriorated when it comes to interacting with them via the phone and 21 per cent said their bank’s postal correspondence has declined in quality over that period.

Jason Hemingway, CMO of Thunderhead, said: “Banks are clearly up against a problem here. Siloed departments and consequently conversations are resulting in customers wasting a vast amount of time being stranded on hold – it’s also adversely impacting customers’ opinion of the banks. The majority of people we spoke to say that their opinion of a company declines when they need to repeat the same information to multiple people, and yet almost half say they don’t feel brands have any knowledge of their previous dealings.

“This silo effect is clouding banks’ view of the customer journey. To get a better view of where their customers are at, banks need to create joined-up fluid conversations across different platforms and departments, including phone, email, letter, social media and so on. This means if a customer has been interacting about an issue via email, the bank should know what they’ve been saying when the customer calls the switchboard to speak to someone. The business needs to join the dots and speak to the customer with one voice. Everything must be connected, businesses need to bridge these silos and have continuous and relevant conversations with customers regardless of channel. Recent legislation has made it easier than ever to switch banks, which means it’s very much a buyer’s market. If banks want to retain their customers they need to gain a much better view of the customers’ entire journey and have the most appropriate and relevant conversations with their customers quickly and easily whenever they interact.”