Financial services brands see upturn in customer experience, report shows

James is editor in chief of TechForge Media, with a passion for how technologies influence business and several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.

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Financial services companies are improving their customer experience while supermarkets are suffering a brand identity crisis, according to the latest research from Nunwood.

The yearly Customer Experience Excellence report sees several success stories in the financial space, with First Direct taking top spot, from third last year, and Nationwide, Skipton and M&S Bank all making the top 20.

Only two financial providers – Green Flag and the good old Post Office – saw their 2014 numbers go down on 2013. The Post Office went down four places to 96 while Green Flag plummeted 30 to 64.

All in all, there were 17 financial services firms in the top 100 UK brands for customer experience. For First Direct, customers had effusive praise for their seamless service across web and phone.

Karen Walker, customer services director at First Direct, explains that they try to avoid scripts as much as possible and “empower our people to resolve an issue first time.”

“I would say we’re obsessed with delivering amazing customer service and we recognise that it’s important to put the customer at the heart of everything we do,” said Walker. “To that end we always recruit positive attitudes – it’s easier to teach people banking skills than to try and change someone’s personality.”

Perhaps some of the larger banks could learn a lesson from this, given none of the big four UK banks made the top 100 list. It’s no secret that banks push sales targets on employees, and while First Direct will have its own set of incentives, there’s evidently a more relaxed atmosphere.

Compare and contrast with US comms provider Comcast, who was forced to back down earlier this week over claims they had a hand in firing a customer from their job for complaining about overcharging. Earlier this year an audio file did the rounds of a Comcast call from a customer who wanted to cancel his service. “It was clear the only sufficient answer was ‘Okay, please don’t disconnect our service after all,’” wrote Ryan Block.

Recently content marketing platform NewsCred said that better content would be the way to get banks onside with consumers. While this conclusion isn’t surprising in itself, the Nunwood study shows some financial firms are doing it right.

Elsewhere, supermarket brands had varied success in customer experience, according to the 2014 report. The majority of supermarkets saw their rankings drop in 2014, with three key exceptions; Waitrose (#7, up three), Aldi (#15, up five), and Lidl (#33, up 20). This suggests shops with a clearly defined niche and market are performing better than more mainstream supermarkets.

“During the recession, customers started to look at more ways that they could save money, and Aldi and Lidl both realised there was a niche in the market to offer quality products at low cost prices,” said Nunwood’s Craig Ryder.

“These consumers still wanted to buy some luxury quality items, so tended to pick them up from the likes of M&S Food. This has left the supermarkets such as Tesco with an issue, as the once famous ‘all under one roof’ proposition doesn’t appear to be what consumers want any more,” he added.

Sainsburys dropped four places to 15, while Asda fell eight to 25. For Tesco, who plummeted 13 places to 60, their recent £250m profit overstatement may be another factor.

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