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Do I trust my bank?

It’s no secret that banks aren't exactly flavour of the month at the moment. Not only are they being blamed for the global financial crisis which has left the UK's economy reeling, they've also been held to account over the PPI misselling saga and unfair overdraft charges. Just about the only thing banks aren’t being blamed for is the weather…

This level of negative public perception means that financial services organisations are being forced to re-examine the way they establish and build relationships with customers.

At heart, there are four key questions they must all ask:

  • How can we rebuild trust and consumer confidence?
  • How can we still deliver increased cost-efficiency and maximise revenue?
  • How can we use a more ‘personal’ customer experience to retain the most profitable customers?
  • How can we manage risk and compliance to comply with regulations and better protect customers?

From these questions alone, it’s clear that customer service departments, so long at the epicentre of a delightful or despairing customer experience, will become even more important to banks everywhere. Whether inquiring about new products or making transactions, customers will rightly expect a seamless service, just as they might do from a shop or restaurant. Fail in that duty, and expect them to make their voices heard – or worse, vote with their feet.

How can greater customer loyalty be assured in the future? Banks are putting their eggs in the basket marked "technology and data". That’s all very well, but surely there is a much simpler obvious step change that can be made – focusing on customers as people.

How refreshing would it be, for example, if a customer could call a bank’s contact centre or – shock horror – actually pop into a local branch, and get their query or problem resolved first time by a single member of staff?

Of course, for First Contact Resolution (FCR) to become a reality, one needs a trained, motivated and, crucially, empowered employee. For many banks this will mean changes at both a process and cultural level, but despite its perceived difficulty, it remains a massive opportunity for restoring customer faith and should not be ignored.

And it can be achieved. Banks just need to listen to their customers. By (a) recording and (b) acting upon customer feedback, banks can in time avoid the spectre of costly and trust-sapping repeat contacts.

Obviously, this enhanced customer service must be structured within a risk-aware, quality-assured framework, one which demonstrates commitment to the FSA’s Treating Customer Fairly guidelines and any other legislation introduced in light of the global financial meltdown.

Rather than a ‘new age of customer service’, think of it more like importing best practice from elsewhere. After all, other industries have been pleasing customers for years – so why can’t banks?