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Is ‘poor’ acceptable as the industry average?

I wrote yesterday's blog about Mr. Grump versus Mr. Smiley bank because someone recently said to me: "Chris, you seem so angry …"  It wasn't a reference to my blog content but to the way my face was purple with steam coming out of my ears because I'm not angry … I'm bloody livid!

And I'm livid with (some) banks.

Not for the credit crisis or banker's bonuses – ferchrisakes, we're over that aren't we? – no, because some banks are just delivering bad service.

There are a variety of banks I use you see.  Some are excellent and some are not so good and some are just plain lousy.

Here's a couple of real life examples of some recent issues.

First, the incorrect payment.

I was hassling a customer over an invoice that had been outstanding since January.

I had hassled them every month over the missing payment since it became overdue in March.

They claimed to have paid it when we finally got to deal with the issue in July.

And they had.

But to an account in the name of "Balatro Ltd", a fairly unique business name, but with a sort-code and account number (BIC and IBAN) that had no relationship with my business.

OK, so the customer had put the wrong details in … but the bank process the payment as they only refer to the sort code and account number and don't check the account name when doing so.

It took the client and I another two months to sort out the payment, and they are still trying to get the money returned from the account that was incorrectly credited as the bank say it's their fault.

The client and I – both in financial technology markets – just wondered why a bank doesn't check the account name, as well as the BIC and IBAN, when processing a payment.

Far too obvious (btw, this is a common issue in UK banking).

The second example (there are many more) is that I got locked out of online banking.  Probably put in the wrong details, but don't think I did.

So the bank sends an activation code a few days later in the post.

It doesn't work for some reason.

So I call up the bank.

"Oh it's your fault, sir", says the unhelpful Northern lass, "you put in the wrong activation code."

We end up in a tete-a-tete with me saying "No, I didn't" and she saying "Yes, you did".

I start losing the will to live and think, what great customer service.

It ends up that she promises to send me a new activation code in the post.

Five days later, no sign of the new activation code.

I ring the bank.

"Oh well, sir, it can take up to seven days for the letter to arrive", says the helpful Northern lad.

"And if it doesn't arrive then?" I ask.

"Of course it could take longer", says the young guy.

"Well, should you send me another code then", I beg, "as it's now two weeks since I got locked out of my account and it's end of quarter."

"We can send you another code sir", says the autobot helpful young man, "but it would mean if the one you're waiting for arrived first, it would be invalid".

"OK, howabout I give you my inside leg measurement, last three years of statements and some blood.  Would you reactivate my account then?" I plead.

"Oh no, it can't be reactivated over the telephone", he states matter of factly.

"Why?" I ask.

"It's just the way the system works, I'm afraid sir."

I could give you about twenty more examples of poor service from the bank that took
three phone calls to get a direct debit set up or the bank that took
four phone calls to report a fraudulent transaction .. and all of these occurred in the last few months.

Maybe it was best summed up by the comment made in a keynote presentation given by one bank CEO recently: "I know one major High Street UK Bank where staff satisfaction is just under 50%", he said.  "This means that if you walk into one of their branches with two tellers waiting to serve you, one of them hates working there and probably hates serving you too.  That's not good."

No, it's not, is it.

The conclusion is that some banks (many?) have a lousy standard of service.

But that's ok isn't it, as customers don't switch because they get lousy service.

They expect it, because that's the average benchmark in the industry.

Someone's gonna shake that tree one day and turn average into exceptional however.

When someone comes in with exceptional then lousy won't be a benchmark, it will be substandard.

I just wonder why the average performance indicator of banks' today allow the benchmark to be lousy however.

Is it just because the banks realise the lethargy of their customers and know that they won't and don't switch?

No wonder our consumer firms are now launching campaigns to get better banking.

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About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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