Banking customer satisfaction reaches record high

Our latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) reveals customer satisfaction with banks and building societies is at its highest point since the UKCSI began in 2008, with a score of 80.4 points (out of 100). These gains are due to marked improvements in complaint handling, companies getting things right first time and the quality of online experiences. In fact, of the latest league table of top ten best brands for customer service, almost half are financial institutions, with Yorkshire Bank, first direct, Nationwide and M&S Bank all making the list.

More interestingly, perhaps, the report outlines how banks with the highest levels of customer satisfaction have been the most successful in gaining or retaining current account business. Those with customer satisfaction scores above the sector average attracted current account gains of 8,675, compared to an average net loss of 3,457 for those whose customer satisfaction was lower than average.

During uncertain economic times, a strong showing from the banking sector demonstrates the importance of pushing forward the basics of good customer experience to the forefront of boardroom strategies and operations. With improvements in customer service worth £81.5 billion* to the UK's GDP through repeat custom and recommendation, where satisfaction is maintained organisations will see a direct link to turnover growth, profitability and productivity.

Almost a decade on from the government bailing out several high street banks, the sector is currently the third highest-scoring sector out of 13, now scoring 2.5 points higher than the UK all-sector average. Compared to this time last year, the average UKCSI score for banks and building societies has improved by 0.7 points, compared to a decrease of 0.3 points in the UKCSI all-sector average. This was the largest improvement by any sector.

Yorkshire Bank is among the top five most improved organisations in the whole UKCSI, with a score of 86.1, up 5.7 points on this time last year. First direct (85.6), Nationwide (85.6) and M&S Bank (84.4) also score well above the sector average but ten financial institutions score below the sector average. When asked about how customer service could be improved, a quarter (25.4 per cent) of customers said making it easier to contact the right person to help is the top priority organisations should fix.

Customers? use of smartphone banking apps as a form of conversation has also increased, and accounts for a greater proportion of interactions (5.7 per cent) than in any other sector. Customers who use an app to interact with their bank show relatively high levels of customer satisfaction, with a score of 83.4. In contrast, consumers? satisfaction with customer service from banks over email has declined over the last two years and is currently 0.4 points lower than the UK all-sector average (71.2).

The growth of the use of apps and the high levels of customer satisfaction it attracts demonstrates significant potential to make experiences easier and more convenient for many customers. Many organisations are now testing artificial intelligence to deal quickly and efficiently with customers? queries. However, most banks serve a wide variety of customers who want to interact with them through a mix of traditional and new digital channels. In order to sustain improvement in customer satisfaction, banks will need to focus on providing consistent levels of service across the full range of channels used by customers.