First direct, a bank that has no high street branches but still manages to make its customers feel valued, is the top-rated brand for customer service in the UK, according to a survey by consumer champion Which?
Which? asked 3621 UK consumers which companies are customer service champions and which brands just aren't up to scratch. First direct topped the table with a score of 87%, achieving the full five stars for people feeling valued as a customer as well as its complaints resolution. It is joined in the top five by Lush (86%), John Lewis (83%), Lakeland (83%) and Waitrose (83%).
Some of the big banks have a way to go to catch first direct - Santander and NatWest were joint 70th with a score of 70%; Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC and Barclays/Barclaycard all finished joint 60th with a score of 71%. Only credit card company American Express and online bank Smile, with ratings of 79% and 78%, respectively came anywhere near first direct.
The number one bugbear cited by consumers in the study is having to navigate an automated phone system to talk to a real person. Says Which?: "First direct enables people to get straight through to a member of staff, and while the call isn't always answered instantly, it's a smoother experience for the customer."
While the UK's banks may have a poor reputation with consumers, they still fare better than the top six energy companies, all of which languish in the bottom fifth of the table, with none of them scoring more than two stars for making customers feel valued. Npower fares the worst with a customer score of just 57%, replacing Ryanair who came bottom of the table last year.