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Banks’ terrible customer service and NatWest’s awful charter

I’ve been meaning to write this for a while, because this particular issue has been on my wick for some considerable time. Now is the moment to get it off my chest!

NatWest’s marketing department has been running irritating TV ads for a long while now promoting it’s ‘Customer Charter’. I find these adverts intensely irritating, primarily because of the poor quality of the promises featured in the ‘Charter’.

It reflects a sad state of consumer affairs in the UK when a bank feels able to make a song and dance about these fourteen pathetic promises:

1. We will extend the opening hours in our busiest branches.

NatWest has committed to opening 600 of its branches on Saturdays. That’s about a third of their branches. Given that the bank wants us to give it our money, it isn’t exactly reaching for the sky in extending opening hours, is it? When the ‘Charter’ is fully implemented, the vast majority of its branches still won’t be open when the vast majority of consumers are most able to access them: weekends.

2. We will aim to serve the majority of our customers within five minutes in our branches.

That is, your custom means so little to NatWest that they expect you to queue for over five minutes to speak to them about half of the time. They expect you to queue to give them money. And we are supposed to be grateful for this apparent concession. How has service become so poor in this country, and how so especially in the banking sector? Tesco will open another till if I have to queue: NatWest will leave me hanging around.

3. We will provide you with friendly, helpful service whenever you deal with us.

The rubric for this item suggests that they want to piss off only 10% of customers. Again, not exactly aiming high, are we?

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

That is, of course, provided that the ‘right choices’ happen to fit in with NatWest’s product range and profit margins. There is no commitment to providing independent financial advice, despite that being what’s hinted at by this promise. Not exactly reassuring.

5. We will provide a 24/7 telephone banking service.

The rubric for this one contains the now oft-quoted concealed racism of promising “UK call centres”. And is there actually any major bank that doesn’t provide this as part of their normal service? Surely not.

6. We will work with you to keep you safe when you bank online with us

Again, this seems an utterly bizarre promise. Keeping me safe when I bank online with NatWest is, in the most part, about NatWest having secure systems. I would liked to have taken that as read.

7. We will help you quickly if your debit card is lost or stolen and you need access to cash

Once again – wow. They have to make a special promise to enable me to access my cash if I happen to lose the card that provides the bank with the most convenient method of me accessing my own money? Again, I’d have very much liked to have taken that as read.

8. We will continue to be a responsible lender and are committed to finding new ways to help

The bank that lent a single woman on benefits £5000 for a nose-job will ‘continue’ to lend responsibly? Great!

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

I’m supposed to be grateful that a bank is promising not to close if there isn’t another bank nearby? You mean I’m supposed to be grateful that NatWest guarantee to maintain a monopoly? And note that the first half of the sentence – suggesting that they’ll maintain the branch – is seemingly contradicted by the last half, suggesting that they will ‘consider a range of options’. Like a once-weekly service in the back of a van.

10. We will provide young people with financial education through our independently accredited MoneySense programme

11. We will actively support the local community in which we live and work

It’s difficult to complain too heavily about these commitments, except to say that they have very little to do with any promise to customers, and everything to do with demonstrating corporate responsibility… And that both programmes cost only the tiniest fraction of the profits of the organisation.

12. We will resolve customer complaints fairly, consistently, and promptly

Apparently, they only want 25% of complainants to be annoyed at the handling of their complaint. Note that the Bank has just been fined £2.8m by the FSA for poor handling of complaints. So how’s that promise going?

13. Twice a year we will publish the most common of complaints

Twice a year they’ll tell us what we complain about? But I already know what I moan about. Why tell me about it? Why not just fix it?

14. We will actively seek your thoughts and suggestions on how we can become more helpful

But, other thank listening, they’ll do nothing. There’s no commitment to following the suggestions, or responding to the thoughts. Thanks, NatWest.

So what do I suggest? Simple: switch.

Swtich to Smile. Switch to First Direct. Switch to The Co-op.

Switch to anyone who actually gives a damn about customer service, instead of waiting for change for a bank which clearly doesn’t know how to prioritise customer service, and whose solution to poor customer service appears to commit to more poor customer service.

Don’t put up with it. The more you put up with it, the more these corporate idiots think its acceptable, and the more poor service propagates.

Swtich, switch, swtich!

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Comments and responses

Comment from Joanna

    17.53, 10/02/2011

I agree with what you wrote, but most of the companies in the same sector has similar issues. Your on spot though thanks for the post.

Comment from Ron

    10.01, 16/02/2011

Natwest / RBS have a number of flaws, which are incongruent with this advertising campaign. Their queues remain as formidable as ever, their policy of “sales through service” is a lie (the reality is of “sales through sales”, their management is clueless (see the takeover of ABN Amro) and their compliance is a mess (see the £2.8M FSA fine they recently accrued). Though the retail staff are generally lovely, a campaign more attuned to reality is I think required (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMWZHKb-Hvk)

Comment from Anonymous

    20.31, 17/02/2011

what a idiot you are I can imagine all you do in life is moan and find fault! at least they are trying unlike most other banks

Comment from sjhoward (author of the post)

    22.41, 18/02/2011

Anonymous – My point is that they are not trying, they are merely trying to look like they’re trying. Banks like First Direct and Smile genuinely do try.

As for always moaning and finding fault – I praise three banks in the above post, not to mention other posts in the archive (here and here for starters) which exist solely to praise good customer service.

Comment from Kay

    20.50, 21/02/2011

Anonymous, does your family work for Natwest or you yourself? I couldn’t help but smile as others seem to be thinking the same as I do. Natwest, helpful w*nking, that is how I refer to them and their Stoopid charter campaign. I am one of the 10% who complaints to them on a regular basis as they are a bunch of inept bankers who do not care about your situation or how to help you. If you don’t keep up throwing money at them in form of interest they just won’t listen, help or anything else. I am sick at the lack of professional customer services. Now you can go back to them and say that someone has published some blasphemy about them and their banking system. I await impatiently to see if anyone would give a d*mm and ask me what can they do for me…

Comment from GouldyFTW

    16.20, 11/04/2011

“Switch to anyone who actually gives a damn about customer service”

I’m not sure there are any banks that give a damn about customer service :/

Comment from sjhoward (author of the post)

    22.06, 11/04/2011

GouldyFTW – I’d recommend First Direct and Smile.

Clearly, customer service will never be the prime focus of any bank (they’re all in it to make money!), but my own experiences of these two, plus consistently good reviews, suggest that they really do try on the customer service front – certainly more than most!

Trackback from elsewhere on the site

18th April 2011.

This post has been referenced by another on this site:
sjhoward.co.uk » NatWest’s awful charter: Revisited

Comment from Sandy

    00.15, 10/05/2011

Natwest glasgow branch is the worst service

Comment from with NatWest many years

    20.01, 05/07/2011

High Street Weston-super-Mare reduced to two cashiers upstairs, probably due to a super totally inefficent bill paying, cash counter advanced atm that chucks your notes back if you havent ironed them the night before. But at least the thing does not give you any hassle about booking a “review” about anything that could give a human cashier some lead commision if they booked an appointment. You pay a large amount in though they are all over you and phone you for an investment “review” until you spend it. Rather go to Worle branch least the staff are friendly and not over zealous like Wsm scavengers.

Comment from Anonymous

    22.30, 02/08/2011

Agree with ever point made.Customer for many years.Most recently wrote letter of complaint to Branch manager, several issues, mainly re. latest return to unreasonable extortionate Charges of £6 a day.Also enquired about previous complaint lodged when the attempt to talk to someone for the famous ‘advice’..again trying to cope with their knock-on effect of Bank charges..A male(mature by sound of him)employee in Lending took the opportunity to indulge in what was tantamount to verbal abuse.I was ill afterwards.
Also complained about no service locally and that links with RBS

Comment from Anonymous

    23.07, 02/08/2011

Relate to every single issue.Recently complained in writing to Branch manager ..1.Return to £6 a day charges.Currently facing £36 and forced into overdraft.Knock-on.2.Asked what happened to previous complaint re. overdraft and employee in Lending’ talk to us..ad.Help ? (Was physically ill after this little encounter.)3.Asked for update re. Judgement given re. charges.
Mainly..but more..No response to date..not even acknowledgement.
Since, 5 ‘encounters’from ID checks..2 telephone home on same day. 3, over few days..had to be led to telephone in shops or answer at till.Humiliating.Somebody ticking boxes on performance sheet..complete con.
Tried tonight to make complaint via contact site on line.One
inaccessible, other cut me out twice..Clever what?
Found this by accident…Will investigate switch..possibilities.

Comment from Anonymous

    23.17, 02/08/2011

Please keep me posted.Just might keep me sane enough to write letter about previous…If chosen for ID fraud check once more in unreasonable near future..major risk of freaking out and public scene. Thanks again, Mac

Comment from Rich

    12.44, 29/09/2011

I find Natwest an abysmal bank and believe me I know I was with them for 6 years. It’s only recently I’ve started having major problems with them. Mainly for me it’s the amount of time they take to show a standing order on your statement’s, when I pay on card with my Lloyds TSB account it shows insntantly and freezes the money to stop me spending it. Where as Natwest do not. They let you spend it then charge you £6.00 A DAY! because of it. You inquire about as to why it has happened and they tell you it’s your fault. Even if you have been in the bank prior and no sod tell’s you it’s happened. I closed my Natwest account yesterday. and I was told by the Guy on the desk that ‘ That’s not my problem’ ‘ It’s your fault’ My Girlfreind had to pretty much hold me back from pining the arrogant bastard to the wall. Just my tuppence of Natwest.

Comment from Customer

    23.36, 31/12/2011

Very poor service today by one of your bank tellers.
I was not at all impressed by her lack of courtesy when dealing with my transaction.

I felt she was undermining me and treated me as if I did not know or understand what I was doing!

When I tried to complain to another member of your staff about this treatment, she did not seem at all interested!!

I am now very tempted to take my banking elsewhere.

Trackback from elsewhere on the site

16th February 2012.

This post has been referenced by another on this site:
sjhoward.co.uk » NatWest Customer Charter ad banned by ASA

Comment from Anom

    17.49, 10/03/2012

Natwest do provide an independent advice arm

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