Bank service level improvements fail to win round customers - Accenture

Source: Accenture

Customer satisfaction with service levels in retail banking has improved over the past year but customers are less likely to recommend their provider, according to a new Accenture (NYSE:ACN) survey of nearly 4,000 current account customers in the UK and Ireland.

In Great Britain in particular, the survey showed that the number of current account customers that are satisfied with their bank has risen from 56 percent to 60 percent in the last year. At the same time, the number of customers complaining about their bank was down from 17 percent to 13 percent, and more customers were satisfied with the complaint handling process (up from 34 percent to 39 percent).

Despite these improvements, the survey showed that the number of British customers who would recommend their bank to family and friends has fallen over the past year from 61 percent to 47 percent. Moreover, less than half of the customers surveyed believe their bank to be transparent and fair (43 percent) or providing good value for money (43 percent).

"These results show that the banks' efforts to fix underlying service issues and engage better with their customers are working," said Peter Kirk, author of the research, and head of Accenture Banking Distribution and Marketing Services in the UK and Ireland. "However, while customers may think their own bank is doing a decent job, the banking industry as a whole still has a long way to go to rebuild its reputation and win back the advocacy of its customers.

"In order to rebuild relationships, banks need to invest more in improving customer service, including meeting the demands of the changing consumer - especially young people, who want to be able to do their banking when it suits them by using digital channels, such as online, mobile and social media. They should also look at rewarding customers through loyalty schemes."

Customer Switching Declines

The survey showed that switching levels among banking customers declined in 2011. Only 11 percent of respondents across the UK and Ireland said they had recently switched one or more products from their existing bank, compared with 16 percent a year ago.

Six percent switched their current account - a key issue identified by the Independent Commisssion on Banking. Of those customers, 23 percent experienced problems with the process but a large majority said switching was worth it, and 75 percent said they were pleased to have switched. Of those who did not switch their main current account, 90 percent had no desire to change providers; and of the remaining 10 percent who wanted to switch but did not do so, half thought the process would be too risky and more than one-third thought it would take too long.

"With nearly a quarter of those switching their current account still experiencing problems, the industry certainly needs to tackle the shortcomings in the system to create fluidity in the market," Kirk said. "However, there is also a clear problem that customers perceive the switching process to be overly cumbersome, which does not necessarily match reality, and this needs to be addressed."

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