Many banks have promised to focus on their customer services over sales. So we surveyed more than 500 front-line bank staff to find out if the pressure to sell still pervades the culture in the big five banks.
The results of our survey of staff from the five major banks – HSBC, RBS, Lloyds, Barclays and Santander – were disconcerting.
We found that two-thirds of bank staff who have a sales role and sales targets say there’s more pressure than ever to meet sales targets. Throughout this Conversation, we’ve added anonymous comments from the bank staff we surveyed.
Putting on the pressure
So what’s the problem – banks need to make money, right? The problem is that the overwhelming pressure on bank staff to sell is leading to some of the most damaging practices in the industry. In our survey, four in 10 agreed that sales targets drive employees to sell when it’s not appropriate.
‘Although banks claim customer service comes first, in reality, the job is completely sales driven. The sales culture is demoralising, stressful and extremely frustrating. I’m faced with trying to sell to the same regular customers day after day.’
Most worryingly, almost half the people we surveyed who had sales roles knew colleagues who had mis-sold products to meet targets. We’re hearing this from bank staff even after many banks have claimed to remove or reduce sales incentives altogether. However, the pervasive sales culture hasn’t changed enough, as eight in 10 say the pressure to meet sales has stayed the same or even increased.
‘A lot of the time you get a message from the manager like “we’re going to focus on credit cards today”, and we’re meant to look into the customer details and see if they’re eligible. I just don’t like having to ask them out of the blue.’
Customers pay in the end
Over a third of bank staff say they’re not comfortable with the level of pressure to sell in their role, while two-thirds say they are sometimes or always told to sell more. And the impact has been felt by their customers who we surveyed separately. Four in 10 customers say the last time they contacted their bank they were offered a new product or service that wasn’t suitable, and a quarter felt pressurised to take it.
‘Staff are often monitored on an hourly basis and constantly badgered by management with regards to their sales performance, while performance reviews are entirely focused on sales. We are driving customers away.’
To sum it up, despite their big promises, the big banks aren’t putting their customers before sales. The pressure on bank staff to meet sales targets encourages mis-selling and, ultimately, customers end up paying the price. At Which?, we want all the banks to refocus their incentive schemes towards customer service – a key ask in our Big Change campaign.
Have you felt under pressure to buy a product or service when calling or visiting your bank?
Have you felt pressured by your bank to buy a product or service?
Yes - I've felt pressured to buy a product or service (56%, 352 Votes)
No - my bank has never pressured me (35%, 222 Votes)
I'm not sure (8%, 52 Votes)
Total Voters: 636