Customer Service and Financial Services

9th Nov 2016

The APPG on Customer Service works to bring parliamentarians, businesses, third sector organisations and other stakeholders together to discuss and share best practice on delivering excellent customer service and how this can benefit business, consumers and the wider economy. 

On 25 October 2016, a meeting was held on the role of customer service in improving the performance of banks and the financial services sector. This meeting included representatives from major high streets banks, new “challenger” banks as well as regulators and charities. 

The Institute of Customer Service 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. It highlighted the link, demonstrated by the UKCSI, 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 for reputational reasons and also because it affects their bottom line.

The need for a personalised or ‘human’ touch

Personal contact was mentioned by many as important. It was thought how a member of staff treats someone is the main factor that people will use to judge the performance of a company. A variety of lessons were highlighted from this: investment in branch networks, introducing more personalised service via technology, a focus on training of staff with a particular emphasis on soft people skills and the need to develop the right culture. 

The importance of culture and leadership

There was consensus that delivering good customer service consistently could only happen if it was hardwired into the culture of organisations and that an organisation’s culture comes from the top. Recommendations for improvement were: creating employee incentives to deliver good service; ensuring the right internal narrative and corporate strategy; ensuring boards take responsibility by rewarding board members for the businesses’ performance in customer 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. 

Measuring the right things

It was noted by one participant that headline figures for customer satisfaction can be misleading as they simply allow consumers to show disapproval for ‘bad banks.’ The meeting agreed a ‘basket of measures’ was needed to examine the key drivers of customer service across all channels. 

The role of innovation and challenger banks

One regulator noted people did not differentiate between banks based on service ratings and more service innovation was needed. It was noted that new technology and innovation is moving from being supply-led to demand-led with new players in the market. Another regulator raised concerns about the data security, resilience and operational capabilities of new entrants. However, some of the smaller banks made clear 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. 

You can read the full minutes of the meeting here and find more about the APPG here.

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