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First Direct still best in show for customer service

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7th Sep 2014
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In an industry where customer satisfaction is still determined by bricks-and-mortar customer support as much as anything else, why does First Direct, a financial institution that solely offers internet and telephone banking, rank so much higher on service than any of its nearest counterparts?

MoneySavingExpert’s most recent bank account service poll (which somewhat crudely asks the banks’ own customers to rate their service as either ‘great’, ‘OK’ or ‘poor’) found that 92% of First Direct’s customers polled its service as ‘great’. Santander, its nearest competitor, came in second with just 72% of its customers ranking it in a similar esteem.

In contrast, Barclays sat at the bottom of the pile with just 38% of its customers ranking its service highly. Worryingly, 26% of its customers believe its service to be ‘poor’,  compared with First Direct where just 2% felt aggrieved about the quality of customer service.

Barclays was gracious enough to offer their own beliefs about MoneySavingExpert’s rankings, with a spokesperson stating that, "even one dissatisfied customer is one too many, and we are constantly working hard to improve and innovate our services”.  And while the much-maligned bank has improved its topline ranking on last year’s results, it still has a long way to go to catch up with First Direct; especially in terms of its current account services:

"With current accounts, customer service really counts,” said Guy Anker, managing editor at MoneySavingExpert.com. “Whether you bank online or in-branch, this is the one financial product you do genuinely have a real day-to-day interaction with.

"Some banks are delivering the goods with both innovative accounts as well as good customer service. On the flip side, the current bottom of the pile is dominated by some of the traditional giant high street banks. It's astonishing that over half of the account holders at four major banks voted the service they get is just OK or poor. This should be seen as a stark warning that the big banks risk losing customers if they don't raise their game.”

First Direct remains somewhat of an enigma in this respect, having topped all six of MoneySavingExpert’s poll since it was first introduced in 2009. And while so many other financial institutions have been torn to shreds by industry surveys and reports in that time, the HSBC-owned internet bank has remained largely untroubled.

First Direct CEO Mark Mullen recently told MyCustomer how it has bucked the trend to be one of the UK's customer service champions

Speaking to MyCustomer last year, First Direct’s former CEO, Mark Mullen said much of the credit for the bank’s customer service success came from the recruitment process it had in place for its call centre / customer service staff.

“A lot of people who have come to First Direct think that we treat our own people with kid gloves and we mollycoddle them and that we have a higher tolerance for the niceties of human relationships - and that’s because we do! “ Mullen stated.

“We have a very simple belief that if you’re not that way to each other, it is impossible to expect people to be that way to customers.”

Evidently other financial institutions have a fair amount of ground to make up before the next iteration of MoneySavingExpert's poll is published, in 2015. 

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