Do banks need to focus more attention on their telephone services?

9th Sep 2014

Nine out of ten people say they are likely to leave their financial service provider if they have a poor telephone experience, according to research published by Smith & Milton.  

The brand agency surveyed 1,000 consumers in the UK to gain an understanding of the current level of service being experienced in banks’ call centres.

It found that not only do consumers leave their banks in their droves following a poor telephone exchange, but also that an alarmingly high number admitted to having recently received some of form of bad phone service. Indeed, over two thirds (68%) of people stated they’d recently had a poor phone experience with a financial services provider.  

“People pick up the phone for the simple reason of wanting to speak to another human being,” said Ben Mott, client services director at Smith & Milton.

“If the person they speak to sounds ill-informed, or doesn’t communicate the values that originally attracted the customer, it will do little to reassure people that they’re entrusting the right company to look after their possessions. And when this happens, consumers won’t hesitate to switch brands.

“It might be one of the oldest customer services channels available…but these statistics reveal just how important it is to UK consumers that they can pick up the phone and speak to a well-informed individual, and this clearly isn’t being delivered.”

Further proof of the importance consumers still attach to telephone services lies in a recent survey from, which asked customers to rate their own banks on the quality of service provided. It found First Direct, a bank that focuses solely on telephone and internet services, ranking far higher in its own customers’ eyes than any other provider.

While First Direct’s culture is acclaimed for its customer-centricity in the call centre, the company sits within an industry that is largely discredited for its ability to resolve customer telephone complaints. Smith & Milton’s survey reveals that only 39% of people feel their banks listen to their complaints over the phone.

“There is clearly room for improvement here and brands should be wary of not listening to customer complaints or they risk losing customers,” Motts added.

Financial services brands need to make sure their marketing teams are working closely with their call centre operators so that staff – who are ultimately brand ambassadors – are delivering the same set of values and messages over the phone that you would see communicated in an advert. Brands can spend as much as they like on an all singing, all dancing TV ad or campaign, but if the customer picks up the phone and has a poor experience it’s simply money down the drain.”   

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