Thursday, 3 March 2011

Update (2): Natwest - (not so) helpful banking

Back in August '10 I brought up Natwest's "Helpful Banking." advert.
In December '10, they got slapped down by the ASA for not opening as many branches on Saturdays as they appeared to imply in that advert.

Now it appears that they aren't really living up to the rest of that advert.

Deloitte (an auditor) was hired by Natwest to monitor them for how well they were living up to their 'promises.'

A sample[current] of what they promised to do:

3. We will provide you with friendly, helpful service whenever you deal with us
We're aiming to get 9 out of 10 customers to rate our service as helpful.
90% satisfaction? Wonder how they're going to select the people they're going to question.

Either that or the fact that the other 10% of their customers are costing RBS/Natwest £2.8m due to mishandling of complaints in the space of 6 months[1] suggests that when things go wrong, customers would be better off at Santander.

9. We pledge to stay open for business if we are the last bank in town and will consider a range of options to ensure a local banking service is available
We’ve already identified over 100 ‘Last in Town’ locations where we’ll continue to provide a local banking service.
Woolly description of what "last in town" means, especially when by the industry definition, Natwest is already the "last bank in town" in 217 locations. I somehow thing it's stretching the weasle phrase "over 100" to cover 217, so that means they're quite able to shut "up to" 116 branches and still keep this 'promise.'

"Local banking service" is also similarly woolly. It's not a hard and fast commitment to actually operate a brick-and-mortar branch (Saturdays or not.) Perhaps they're going to buy some more white vans.

13. Twice a year we will publish the most common of complaints
And we’ll strive to address the causes

It's been 7 months since the adverts. I could be wrong, but if you're going to do something twice a year, it's generally accepted that they should be 6 months apart, so that mean they should have published at least one list.

Strangely I've not seen it, and it's certainly not linked on that page.

Anyway. How did they do?
(I couldn't find the report/PR, so this is based on the sparse news reports currently out there.)

Out of their 25 goals, they passed 20, and failed 5. That's 20% failure.  (Or a "80% success rate" as Brian Hartzer, head of Retail Banking, would have you think of it.)

Possibly an acceptable result had the goals been externally imposed, but these were self-imposed.

2. We will aim to serve the majority of customers within 5 minutes in our branches
This year we’ll introduce a new queue busting programme in our busiest branches to ensure every available member of staff is out serving customers during busy periods.

75% of customers were served in under 5 minutes. Presumably leaving the other 25% waiting half and hour. Or more.

3. We will provide you with friendly, helpful service whenever you deal with us
We're aiming to get 9 out of 10 customers to rate our service as helpful.

Only 80% of customers believed the hype. The still suspiciously high number is probably down to either judicious selection of the people questioned, or biased questioning. Again - few details available.

4. We will help you to make the right choices for you and your money, providing a clear product range with simply explained features and charges
All of our branch literature will be simplified and rewritten in line with customer feedback. We’re also introducing a new Customer Service Review programme to make it easier for our customers to choose the right product for them.

This appears to be another one. Bugger all detail apart from they've reduced the number of products from 600 before the banking crisis to 200 now.

12. We will resolve customer complaints fairly, consistently, and promptly
We are aiming for 75% of customers to be satisfied with the way their complaint has been handled.
Way short. 57%. And that includes a 41% increase in complaints about the group in the 2nd half of 2010. Perhaps RBS/Natwest were encouraging more people to complain so they could (attempt to) satisfactorily solve them to push the %age up?

Sadly none of the news reports coming up on Google News at the moment have the 5th missed target. Indeed, none of them list the four I list above in much detail.

[1] Ok, it was the first half of 2009, but the timing of the fine coinciding with this report from Deloitte is rather embarrassing.

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