Magazine article Marketing

Banks Lend an Ear to Service

Magazine article Marketing

Banks Lend an Ear to Service

Article excerpt

High-street banks are pushing improved customer service as a key part of their attempts to overcome the negative attitude of consumers.

Midland Bank's decision to revive its 'Listening Bank' slogan and launch a campaign highlighting its customer service marks a new confidence among the high-street banks that their customers are satisfied.

The bank is soon to launch TV advertising featuring an employee in the role of a superhero solving customers' problems, a theme which is increasingly being used in advertising by rival banks such as Lloyds and NatWest.

The desire by high-street banks to market themselves as quality service providers follows years of criticism for what the media saw as a failure to care for their customers.

The move also follows the 1989 launch of First Direct, widely acknowledged as a watershed in customer service in the financial sector.

So have banks managed to shake off the poor public image that they earned during the later 80s and early 90s, through a combination of public relations disasters coupled with massive profits.

Their argument is that improved internal marketing, training and customer service has erased many of the old problems and customers have noticed the difference.

However, exclusive research for Marketing by NOP suggests that consumers have seen less of a radical improvement than the banks might have hoped for.

In a survey of more than 800 people, the majority believed banks' customer service has not improved over the past five years - or had got worse.

Thirty-one per cent believed their banking service had improved, compared with 54% who felt it had stayed largely the same. Fourteen per cent thought it was now worse than ever.

Other industry observers have also found little improvement in the banks' offering. The Office of the Banking Ombudsman, the bank watchdog, noted 8044 complaints in writing last year, up 8.4% on the previous year.

The figure is a dramatic increase on the number of complaints reported eight years ago, when only 2706 were recorded.

The Consumers' Association's last survey on customer satisfaction, in October 1995, revealed that a quarter of respondents found a mistake on their current accounts and that larger banks were the worst offenders.

Senior researcher for the Consumers' Association Neil Walkling says there seemed to have been little change in the situation. "The service you get is still a bit of a lottery. It is very difficult for banks to maintain uniform service when they have so many branches, but an increased use of telephone banking should improve the situation," he says. …

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