14th Nov 2016
A human touch, strong leadership and a willingness to embrace innovation – these were just some of the things identified as important to delivering excellent customer service at the recent meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Customer Service.
The meeting, which was introduced by The Institute of Customer Service, examined the role of customer service in improving the performance of banks and the financial services sector. In attendance were representatives from major high-street banks and new ‘challenger’ banks as well as regulators and charities.
Institute CEO, Jo Causon, introduced the meeting by pointing out that the sector was the only one not to register an improvement in the UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) in the last 12 months. The UKCSI showed a link between banks’ customer satisfaction scores and levels of consumer trust and also net gains and losses in terms of current accounts. Banks should therefore focus on service not only for reputational reasons but because it affects their bottom line too, emphasised The Institute.
Many who attended mentioned personal contact as being important to customer service. It was felt that how a member of staff treats someone is the main factor that people will use to judge the performance of a company. Representatives from banks discussed the need to invest in branch networks, introduce a more personalised service via technology, and focus on staff training, with a particular emphasis on soft people skills.
There was also a consensus that delivering good customer service consistently can only happen if it’s hardwired into the culture of organisations and that an organisation’s culture comes from the top. Recommendations included: creating employee incentives to deliver good service; setting auditable targets that can be reviewed as part of compliance processes; and senior managers occasionally answering customer enquiries to ensure they understand their customers.
The importance of measuring the right things was also raised, with one participant commenting that headline figures for customer satisfaction can be misleading as they simply allow consumers to show disapproval for ‘bad banks’. The meeting agreed that a ‘basket of measures’ was needed to examine the key drivers of customer service across all channels.
Meanwhile, one regulator noted that people did not differentiate between banks based on service ratings, and that more service innovation was needed. Another regulator raised concerns about the data security, resilience and operational capabilities of new entrants.
However, some of the smaller banks made clear that they put serving their customers at the heart of their ethos and that a traditional-versus-challenger view was unhelpful, as consumers were increasingly willing to buy from multiple providers.
The meeting concluded that more investment and focus could be put into customer service, particularly given the vital importance of these services to individuals and businesses.