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Banks back in the spotlight as Which? criticises complaints handling

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16th Apr 2013
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Banks have once again found themselves on the back foot with the latest research into customer complaints showing an inability to resolve issues quickly and effectively. 

The survey of 2,000 UK bank users by Which? showed that of the 12m customers that had problems with their current accounts within the last year, 22%  felt that their complaints were not dealt with satisfactorily.

According to the report, two thirds of customers (66%) chose to lodge their complaint with the bank with 29% of those claiming to have done so more than once before the issue was resolved.

Of those that didn’t complain, 19% said this was because they didn't believe their bank could solve the problem whilst nearly a quarter said they didn’t want to call an expensive phone number.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: “There’s been a lot to complain about in banking over the last few years and to win back our trust they must sort out their complaints handling. When things go wrong it is critical that banks act swiftly and fairly to deal with the problem, identify what caused it and make sure it’s not repeated.

“The way that a bank deals with complaints says a lot about the culture of the organisation. Some banks are getting this right but they all need to do more to put their customers first.”

Bank of Scotland, Barclays and Co-operative Bank fared the worst in Which?’s survey, receiving the highest number of complaints whilst First Direct and Nationwide had the least.

The news follows the Institute of Customer Service’s annual UKCSI report, released last week, which saw First Direct take third place in the all-industry rankings for customer satisfaction. Interestingly, The Co-operative Bank, which fared badly in the Which? study, was also shown to deliver consistent levels of customer service, ranking 11th in the UKCSI results.

A spokesperson for The Co-operative Bank told the BBC that the findings from the Which? report did not chime with its own: “We are now working with Which? to understand the research in more detail and will be addressing those areas in which we have fallen short as a priority.”

Recent research into banks' customer service levels has been conflicting. Figures from the DMA showed that consumers rate the service they receive from their main bank highly whilst the ICS warned that overall, banks are lagging behind other sectors in delivering great customer service. 

Following the ICS figures, Matthew Dokelman and Claire Paisley have listed five ways the banking industry can save itself including changing internal culture and acknowledging shortcomings. 

Additional data regarding customer complaints is expected to be released by The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) next week. 

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