Banks get a hard time from many consumers, yet they are a facility we all need for saving money and paying bills. Some people do manage to operate with cash alone, but it is not very easy and consumers using cash never get the best deals.
So I was interested in this new survey from the consultancy firm Accenture that suggests British consumers are becoming more satisfied with their bank, are less likely to complain about service at the bank, and the numbers of customers switching bank are on the decline.
However, when asked if they thought that their bank was transparent and fair and good value for money, fewer than half agreed.
In my view there are a few different factors at play. The wider banking industry has been endlessly criticised since the economic collapse of 2008, yet most people are still fairly happy with their own high street bank and the service they get on a day-to-day basis.
Also, there is an anomaly in the UK when compared to most other countries – British people expect banking to be free. However, instead of charging fixed fees openly for an account (like in Australia for example where $5 per month would be normal) the British banks have various ‘hidden’ fees and surprise penalty charges – which could also explain why people feel they are not very transparent.
It is an interesting time right now for retail banking in the UK and customer service could be at the heart of a change in every high street. Just this month, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin group started rebranding branches of Northern Rock to their new ‘Virgin Money’ identity.
If people think that banks are not open and transparent then maybe the Virgin approach will excite many customers and those figures for people switching account may start increasing in Virgin’s favour?