/ Money

Is your bank now putting customers before sales?

Bank sign with a crack in it

The idea of banks putting customers first may make you laugh. Especially if yours still tries to persuade you to take out a packaged current account with benefits you don’t need. Or when you think about the PPI saga.

But several banks do claim they’ve moved away from sales-driven commission and now focus purely on customer service targets.

Many problems stemmed from what was a high-pressured culture of sales targets and bonuses. The banks were told to clean up their acts and back in March 2014, the Financial Conduct Authority said that all the major banks had either replaced or substantially improved their staff incentive schemes.

But do the banks’ claims of how they’ve changed match your experience?

How do you feel about the way your bank sells products?

If you’re popping into your local branch, will staff usually encourage you to take our another product with them, such as a mortgage or a credit card? And if they do, does it bother you?

A colleague of mine recently nipped in to their local bank to pay in a cheque and – without prompting – was offered a £20,000 loan – with the money to be made available that same day.

Perhaps you find it useful, not irritating, when your bank tries to sell you something. If, for example, you end up with a better rate on your savings, that could be a good thing. And if you need to buy travel insurance for your summer holiday, a nudge from bank staff could be a helpful reminder.

Is it handy that you can get everything in one place – perhaps your bank can offer you currency, insurance and a prepaid card at the same time?

Others might argue that banks have a poor reputation for selling products in a transparent way. And how confident are you that they always understand the products they sell?

Only a few months ago, our undercover investigation revealed that bank and building society staff were unable to answer simple questions about Isa rules correctly.

What do you think of how your bank sells you products? Do you find it useful or annoying? Do you think that banks have improved the way they sell products to customers?


My current account is with the Nationwide and every time I use a branch for an over-the-counter transaction the teller asks me whether I want their insurance or to change to a packaged account. Personally I find these enquiries annoying as I am normally trying to concentrate on what I need to do during that visit and making sure my money and cards are put away safely, so these distractions are unhelpful, and, from the Nationwide’s point of view, invariably unproductive. So why do they bother? I could also do without the small talk while they wait for my account details to load on their screen. I suppose this is all part of the banks’ attempts to make themselves appear more customer-friendly. I particularly object to being asked about the source of in-payments.

Did anyone see the TV programme earlier this week featuring a NatWest branch in Huddersfield and their laughable attempts to improve their customer satisfaction scores? The whole outfit came over as very unprofessional.

I’ve noticed that nobody in a bank branch can write a proper letter any more; they want to do everything by telephone. This runs counter to their on-line security messages that your bank will never ask for your personal account details over the telephone. While that remains true – they won’t do that – this false cosiness undermines their position and it’s easy to see how some customers can fall for scams if they’re used to being telephoned by their bank. I suppose I expect too much formality and a bit of distance between me and the bank staff; I don’t like it that they are trying to control the relationship and I think that is fundamentally where they are going wrong.

I have never been offered anything by my bank

Malcolm says:
26 June 2015

When I had been with NatWest for 40 years I asked how they were going to mark the occasion. After a bit of negotiation we settled on a bottle of champagne. Not a big deal I know, but it’s the first time I have ever got something for nothing from a bank.

Now hanging on for my 50th! A case of bubbly perhaps this time.

Malcolm, as I own a little bit of Natwest through the taxpayer’s holding 81% of RBS after bailing it out, I am delighted you got something out of it. Hope the taxpayer does as well :green: Just teasing, though! Cheers.

physicscitizen says:
26 June 2015

Barclays has an “interesting” take on customer focused service. It is now very difficult to walk into a branch and deal with a human being. Deposits “in person” are done on a machine. All transfers and standard account transactions are done on-line.

In fairness the majority of my business with Barclays is routine and is often best handled by a machine anyway.

Since 2013 though the on-line experience has become increasingly annoying. The web site is dominated by products and features the bank is trying to get me to buy or join, while the areas which take me to the most common on-line services take up less area on the site and are de-emphasized in light Barclays-blue plain text. On the other hand, merely hovering the mouse over an advertisement usually brings up a nearly full-page pop up that obscures the rest of the page. Heaven forbid you actually accidentally click on the ad anywhere…as you are then shunted off to the hard-sell pages. It can be tricky to then figure out where your main-line services pages have went before your time-limit runs out and you are logged off due to inactivity.

As far as I can tell, you cannot even “opt out” of this advertising blitz.
They certainly did not ask any real customers when they made the changes to their on-line web site.

Budget should trigger fairness review, says Which?
05 July 2015
Which? today calls for Wednesday’s Emergency Budget to trigger a review of how financial companies are treating customers.

Am I being naive, but isn’t this a bit close to budget day to be asking the Chancellor to include something? We don’t know all of what is included, but I would have thought the time for Which? to lobby the Chancellor was just after the election result? Did they do this and is this just a follow-up?

Hi Malcolm, you’re right, Which? wrote to the Chancellor, as well as other key Ministers, after the election, and we, like many organisations, have been in contact with his officials over the past six weeks to discuss what we would like to see in the Budget. This was simply more of an opportunity to follow up publicly as the media begins to speculate on what will be in Budget, and organisations use the chance to state what they’d like to be included.

Thanks Richard. Did you publish what you wrote?

Yesterday the bank that I have my credit card with, wrote to congratulate (!) me that it had automatically increased my credit card limit from £3,000 to £6,500.

I hadn’t asked for this and I didn’t want it. And if I didn’t want the increased limit, I would have to opt out. Of course I don’t have to (and won’t) use the increased limit, but it still seems odd to me to have to opt out of something you didn’t ask for.

I received a similar letter before I went on holiday. I feel strongly that the user should apply to have their credit card limit increased as a measure to discourage people getting into debt.

Back in the 70s I rejected increased credit limits on the card that is in daily use in the hope that this might help in the event of fraud. Despite my written instruction never to raise the limit without my authority, the company has done so twice and now I have been told of this third increase.

This behaviour does little to boost my confidence in banks.

Credit cards are a convenience – when used wisely. However using them is nowhere near the same as the pain of extracting paper money from your wallet, or even writing a cheque. They encourage you to make purchases on the spur of the moment whereas if you had to get real money for a purchase you might have though harder about whether you needed it and whether you could afford it.

Transferring money to a card with 0% interest (one card provider keeps sending me letters to do this – how thoughtful!) simply adds to the encouragement to get you into more debt.

Too late now to get this under control – our whole economy depends upon unnecessary debt. Does that really matter? Greece might suggest it does.

I had been with H S B C previously midland for 50 years for a good number of those years they served me well. in the last 10 years they have rapidly gone down hill and show absolutely no interest in there customers even when your account is in a very healthy state ,so I am on the move to a bank that has retained the old high street values, hopefully H S B C will do what they say and clear off back to Hon -Kong