Customer service in UK banks questionedBut BBA says we get a better deal than most

14 June 2007

UK banks faced fresh questions over customer service today after a global survey ranked the industry below other leading European states.

A study of the banking sector in 17 countries found British consumers suffered from long queues in branches and limited customer information.

Of the six European countries whose banks were included, Britain came fifth - placing it below Germany, Spain, Switzerland and Austria in terms of performance.

The report, by consultancy firm Booz Allen, used mystery shopping techniques to look at the experience of customers using branches, call centres, online services and other banking facilities.

Overall, the study found Hong Kong to be the strongest country in terms of retail banking, followed by Switzerland and the United States.

Waiting times

The UK market was noted for its long waiting times at branches and a lack of relevant information for the consumer.

Call centres suffered from difficulty in accessing a human being, no indication of waiting time and slow connection to an adviser.

UK banks also failed to provide sufficient product information online and did not provide tailored offers, the study found.

Fabienne Konik, principal at Booz Allen and author of the report, said: 'There are some clear issues that explain the gap between UK retail banks and global best practices.

'UK banks are not performing well in terms of customer service and they are failing to make the most of virtually every sales channel that could expand their businesses.'

Most transparent

A spokesman for the British Bankers' Association, said: 'Banks take customer service very seriously and the industry is fiercely competitive.

'The suggestions for improvement made by Booz Allen have already been adopted by some banks but different banks will have their own strategies and their own customer profile.

'Research carried out by Mori showed that bank customers in the UK rated highly the provision of statement services, administrative efficiency and helpfulness in dealing with inquiries.'

He added: 'Overall, bank customers in the UK get a better deal than those in other countries. A survey conducted by Oxera concluded that the UK is not only one of the cheapest countries in which to bank, but also one of the most transparent.

Free banking

'It is also one of the very few countries where you can get free banking simply by keeping your account in credit.'

A Which? spokesperson said: 'If you're unhappy with your bank the best thing to do is vote with your feet and switch. Our latest research shows that the main complaint by banking customers is low interest rates on current and savings accounts. You should always shop around for banking services and keep your eyes peeled for changing interest rates. If you suffer at the hands of poor customer service there's only one thing to do - take your business elsewhere.'

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