In his last blog, Alistair mentioned how the sale of Northern Rock to Virgin Money is likely to shake up the British High Street by bringing the Virgin attitude to customer service to the retail-banking sector in a much bigger way.
There was another story this week about some of the British banks that have been saved by the British government during the 2008 economic crisis and how they have their own ideas for radically changing customer service expectations.
The Royal Bank of Scotland group, which includes the RBS and Natwest retail banking brands, published a customer charter a few months ago – simplifying the service customer can expect. Both banks have created online forums on their website where customers can openly discuss the service they received when compared to this ‘customer charter’ – with criticisms taken particularly seriously.
It is yet to be seen if this social feedback approach will move away from the corporate websites, but it would seem logical to expand the trial into public social networks, such as Facebook, to capture the views of customers who don’t ever us the banks corporate website.
This follows the initiative of First Direct, who launched a social platform for their customers last summer, and their parent firm HSBC who are now exploring how to take a similar service to their own customers. Interestingly the HSBC platforms don’t restrict discussion in the social area to complaints or banking advice, customers get together to talk about almost any subject in a social space created by the bank.
Personally I am not sure that I would go to a bank website to ask for advice on the best Italian restaurant in central London, but the idea that banks are realising they have millions of customers mostly used to online social interaction is powerful.
If the RBS group can use their social approach to create a customer focus group consisting of millions of voices then it will clearly help them to know exactly what their customers want, and create ideas for new services too.