Smile, the Co-operative Bank's standalone online banking subsidiary, tops the UK's electronic banking league table for customer satisfaction, according to new research by Virtual Surveys.
The latest findings of its Virtual Online Banking Survey (V-OBS), derived from 4000 Web-based interviews with UK e-banking customers in the last quarter of 2001, show big differences in satisfaction ratings between the major players in the field.
Smile tops the board with a score of 4.2 out of 5, beating runners-up First Direct (4.0) and Nationwide (3.9). All three banks were among the first UK organisations to embrace e-banking.
Internet-only banks Cahoot (a subsidiary of Abbey National), IF (a subsidiary of the Halifax) and Egg (spun off from Prudential Insurance) come in with mediocre ratings of 3.4 out of 5.
Bottom of the table are NatWest (2.8 out of 5) and the Alliance & Leicester (2.7 out of 5). Both are criticised by customers for having sluggish Web sites with many user access problems.
Pete Comley, MD of Virtual Surveys, says that speed of response is one of the two factors judged most important by e-banking customers. The other is general ease of use. He warns that many e-banks will have to improve their performance or they will put off their customers using e-banking for life.
Logging in and password problems seem particular user gripes, says the research company. Comley also points out that after speed and usability, customer support is the next most important attribute of online banks.