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An article relating to this blog post on Finextra:

US financial firms failing online customers - study

The majority of financial firms are failing to provide adequate online customer services to their clients, according to a study of 72 US financial institutions commissioned by IBM and CRM vendor Kana...


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Do retail banks respond to emails?

I saw this survey last week that revealed 53% of UK banks fail to respond appropriately to online queries or emails.

A US version of the same study last year found that of 72 banks surveyed, well over half - 67% - of firms did not provide satisfactory answers via e-mail.

These survey results are obviously good marketing hooks for IBM and Kana (which among other things sells customer email management software to banks), but based on my own experience of trying to communicate via email with my bank, the picture the surveys reveal about the poor state of online customer service looks about right. And considering that most banks have celebrated (or will soon) the 10 year anniversary of their online channels, it’s a pretty grim picture.

But the picture is improving, if very slowly. This most recent survey reminded me of a similar one that Unisys did back in 2001, which I reported for my publication at the time. Unisys presented the findings to journalists around the world who had been flown on a fact-finding mission (i.e. jolly) to their lovely centre in St. Paul de Vence in the foothills behind Nice. This might have helped that particular survey stick in my mind. (In fact, I seem to remember that prolific Finextra blogger Chris Skinner, at Unisys at the time, was hosting the event).

In 2001, Unisys found that of the top 400 global banks (as ranked in The Banker), only 306 had websites. And of these, only 142 had contact details, communication channels or emails addresses listed on their site. When contacted, only 88 replied, but only 64 replied with an acceptable response (the other 24 replied with form letters that gave no way for the bank to establish a dialogue with the customer).

The Unisys survey was global, and online banking adoption obviously proceeded at different rates in different countries. But if you can set this aside it would seem that in 6 years we’ve gone from 16% of banks being able to respond to an email or online query, to 47% (if you take the latest UK figure). Progress, certainly, but not much when you consider how far banking and technology have come in that time.

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Comments: (2)

Paul Penrose
Paul Penrose - Finextra - London 21 February, 2008, 15:04Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes Dissed by the yoof as the communication medium of choice for old people, and the favoured tool of spammers and phishers alike, e-mail's already old hat. What are banks doing about SMS, twitter, IM, desktop video conferencing and other modern collaboration tools? Answers on a telex, please.
A Finextra member
A Finextra member 23 February, 2008, 01:39Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

It seems a bit incongruous. Don't answer emails from the bank because they're much more likely to be a phishing attack. Don't post links in emails. It's no wonder the staff don't bother to reply - what can they say? - and they can't give the customer a link to the  information they want on the bank's website.

Authenticated email is the only way banks can ever recapture this communication channel. Don't be too hard on the staff. Most of the customers wouldn't read their reply anyway and it would likely be not very informative to boot. 

It's really a strange state of affairs. I'm surprised they haven't done anything about it sooner. Back in the wild west with bank robbers and forgers abounding but instead of guns and paper it's phishing and fake websites.  I think it's gone on long enough.

Elton Cane

Elton Cane

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