Industry Research : The Best Banks for Customer Service in 2015
Every year various polls are published revealing the banks and building societies that have surpassed their competitors for customer service that year, and the ones that have fallen flat.
Often it is the high street giants that languish at the bottom of customer service tables. In August, for instance, a MoneySavingExpert poll showed that Barclays, NatWest, HSBC, RBS and Lloyds Bank were voted the five worst banks for service. Barclays came last with only 38p% of its customers saying its service was "great". Twenty-six per cent of its customers rated it "poor."
Santander is attracting more customers than any other bank, aside from Halifax, according to figures released by the Payments Council in October.
This is largely down to its 123 current account which offers up to cashback on household bills and up to interest on balances.
But the Spanish-owned bank's customer service is also proving a win, with recent satisfaction surveys all showing a dramatic turnaround for Santander. It appears to be shaking off a reputation for poor service that has dogged the bank since its takeover of Abbey and Alliance & Leicester.
In 2010 complaints about woeful service at Santander reached their peak. Many of the problems were caused by the migration of Alliance & Leicester customers to a different computer system. The customer service issues persisted into 2011, after which matters appeared to improve.
Nowadays, the bank is rated highly for service. Defaqto, an independent financial research company, rates Santander's 123, Everyday and Choice current accounts "5-star", while our own poll asking: "Has Santander improved in the last four years?" revealed that 78% of just over 1,400 voters said "Yes".
TSB only launched as a stand-alone bank in September last year, after splitting from Lloyds due to EU competition rules.
Customers were transferred from Lloyds to TSB at the time, and the bank has continued to attract new customers.
In fact, TSB opened one in every 10 new current accounts this summer, according to figures released in October.
The bank's previous customer service problems have subsided. In February, TSB was named the worst bank for customer service in a poll of almost 9,000 people, with only 37% of its customers rating the service "great". Twenty per cent said it was "poor".
Today however, the bank's customer service ratings are higher. In a MoneySavingExpert poll conducted in August, TSB's "Classic Plus" account was rated "great" by 52% and "poor" by only 12%.
Defaqto rated TSB's "Platinum current account" four out of five stars.
A spokesman for TSB told Telegraph Money that the bank had "various initiatives planned for 2015 which we hope will build on and improve our customers’ experience."
They said the bank had already made several improvements to its customer service by scrapping all of its 0845 numbers so customers aren't charged a high rate when calling the bank, had extended opening hours in branches and introduced an automated service so people can let the bank know when they are planning on using their card abroad.
The Co-operative Bank has faced a number of challenges this year, after its "ethical" repuation was tarnished in the wake of scandals involving its former chairman, Paul Flowers, who was arrested for possesstion of drugs in May, and the discovery of a black hole in its accounts. A few months ago the mutual admitted to losing almost 40,000 current account customers in the first half of this year.
But the bank is stepping up its game in order to attract new customers, with a cash incentive offered to those who switch – a portion of which is given to charity on your behalf.
Its customer service has been rated highly. In the same MoneySavingExpert poll as above, the bank was placed fifth out of 14 providers, with 70% of those surveyed saying the bank's customer service was "great".
Liam Coleman, director of retail and commercial at the Co-operative Bank, said that improving the bank's service is at the heart of its continued focus to lift the experience for its customers.
Going into 2015, Mr Coleman said: "We’re investing in new digital channels to increase choice and convenience for customers in the ways they manage their finances. We're also working hard to introduce new products, built on customer research and feedback, that reflect our ethical approach.
"Our updated Ethical Policy will also launch early in the new year. Based on the views of customers and wider stakeholders, it will reaffirm how we will and will not use their money and go further by addressing customers’ desire to see how values and ethics can be embedded in the way the bank goes about its business," he said.
According to financial ombudsman figures released in September, Nationwide was the tenth most complained about individual financial business in Britain, with the ombudsman receiving 4,886 complaints about the building society in January to June of this year. This made up 12% of the total number of complaints received about individual financial businesses.
Last week however, Nationwide was recognised for "excellent" customer service after a study from Market Force Information, a consumer research company, found that the building society beat its rivals when it came down to customer satisfaction.
The national retail banking study polled more than 4,000 consumers in September and found that Nationwide had a "composite loyalty score" of 55%. This refers to the customer's "satisfaction with their primary bank and their likelihood to refer that bank to others." Nationwide scored top in three out of four areas: "easy to do business", "trust and financial wellbeing" and "bank reputation". It came second after Barclays for "location convenience."
Jenny Groves, customer experience director at Nationwide said: "We are pleased to have been recognised so highly within this report as we pride ourselves on delivering excellent customer service to our members. Indeed, we have been independently ranked first for customer service when compared to our high street peers for the last three years."
She added: "We have invested heavily in Nationwide and our branch network to give customers a variety of ways to do business with us while also ensuring we innovate and offer options for people to manage their money on the move through our banking app and being able to access balance information on smart watches, for example."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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