Magazine article Marketing

Amanda Aldridge on Retail: Banks Need Retail Skills to Fill the Service Gap

Magazine article Marketing

Amanda Aldridge on Retail: Banks Need Retail Skills to Fill the Service Gap

Article excerpt

How many times have you moaned about the service you've received in a shop? Yes, you've undoubtedly had some bad experiences, but as people now spend so much time shopping - out of necessity or pleasure - the law of averages suggests there are bound to be some disappointments along the way.

Compared with what you'd probably find in the US, we are some years behind.

But it must be said that those working in retail are a hell of a lot better at customer service than the vast majority of other service industries.

Take banks and building societies. The generally held perception is that the customer service they offer is inferior to many retailers. Since people are more likely to get divorced than change their bank account, the financial services sector has grown complacent. In contrast, it is the easiest thing in the world to switch allegiance from one shop to the one next door after a single episode of poor service.

The financial services sector is certainly in need of a shake-up - and it would appear to be happening. There have been plenty of stories about the rebranding initiatives that will, supposedly, reconnect this or that bank or building society with their long-suffer-ing customers.

One prominent recent example was the renaming of Abbey National as Abbey, complete with retail-style signs in lower-case text and pastel colours.

It remains to be seen what other, more practical, changes may follow.

A variety of customer service initiatives are being undertaken by other banks, as typified by Lloyds TSB, has been repositioning itself as the 'consumer banking champion'. This sounds great, and I'm sure we're all looking forward to putting these changes to the test next time we are charged for going slightly overdrawn.

So how exactly will the banks implement these changes? The answer is by poaching people from the retail sector.

The roll-call of retailers decamping to the banking sector is impressive, and growing all the time. Lloyds TSB recently recruited former Kingfisher finance director Helen Weir as finance director, while Barclays' high-street operation is being overseen by Robin Dickie, a former WH Smith executive. Head of retail banking at HBOS is a 36-year-old high-flier, Andy Hornby, who honed his customer service skills working at the self-proclaimed consu-mer champion, Asda. …

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