UK Banks are Failing on Customer Service

Research that will surprise no one has revealed this week that after all the publicity and consumer campaigns against them, banks are still failing to deal with customer complaints in a satisfactory manner.

The watchdog Consumer Focus commissioned the research which took the form of a nationally representative sample of 2,000 people. This was conducted by phone during December and January.

The headline figures show that 75% of customers who are unhappy with the service at their bank will make a complaint, only 47% of them are then satisfied with the bank’s response.

There are several concerning aspects to this information, the first being that 25% of people who are unhappy with the customer service at their bank don’t even bother to complain. As the great Anne Robinson used to say, ‘don’t let them get away with it, stand up for yourself and make a fuss’. Otherwise nothing will change.

Of the 47% unhappy with the bank’s response, 31% fail to do anything about it and take the complaint further. Only 9% end up taking it as far as the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Some of these figures will represent cases where the complainant is in the wrong, but not many. And it demonstrates only too well how banks try and succeed to get away with shoddy customer service.

This new research comes after the City watchdog, the Financial Services Authority, described banks complaints procedures as “poor” last year.

An expert at Consumer Focus summed up the situation saying: “Customers are willing and able to fight their corner and take the first step of complaining. The problem is they then seem to become disheartened by the banks’ poor service and complaints systems. Unfortunately, persistence appears to be the key to getting the answer you would like from your bank.”

Consumer Focus now joins the ranks of many analysts calling for banks to take complaints more seriously and devote more resources to improving customer service. Consumer rights groups are also urging the Financial Services Authority (FSA) to continue using the prospect of financial sanctions to keep the pressure on poorly performing firms.

The progress in this area is painfully slow, especially for those experiencing poor quality customer service on an almost daily basis. But it is important to note that progress is being made and gradually, oh so gradually, the banks are being made to take customer complaints more seriously and act on them.

As a final note, if you are disappointed with the standards of customer service at your bank, don’t just accept it but get on the internet, shop around and switch your account. You do have the ultimate sanction.

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