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NatWest’s awful charter: Revisited

A little while ago, before I did all that App reviewing nonsense, I blogged about Natwest’s utterly unambitious Customer Charter.

You’ll probably have seen on TV ads and billboards nationwide that they’ve just published their first independent review of progress – it’s online here, and it’s well worth a read and a chuckle.

Let me share with you some of the highlights.

You’ll remember that one of the commitments I derided the most was “We will aim to serve the majority of our customers within five minutes in our branches.” They have two pages dedicated to this commitment in their follow-up report. The first is congratulatory, with big ticks heralding the arrival of more cash machines and a queue management system. Neither of those is the crucial outcome measure, though. That comes on the next page, with this pearl of wisdom:

We know … that there are times and places where customers have waited longer and we have much more to work on … We are testing a new tool to measure queues.

Their solution to improve waiting times is… to change the way waiting times are measured. Because, dear customer, this represents “Helpful Banking”. Presumably, you’ll stand in the queue for exactly the same length of time, but their report will look better. Fantastic.

Another promise was that they’d only piss off 10% of their customers: “9 out of 10 customers will rate us friendly and helpful.” How did they do?

8 out of 10 customers rated us friendly and helpful during 2010.

They failed. But, not to worry, they still include this congraulatory customer quote:

A 9 out of 10 customer satisfaction rate … does help to reassure me that they are serious about their commitment.

Not only would pissing off 10% of customers not go a long way to reassuring me that NatWest is serious about “Helpful Banking”, the fact is that they didn’t achieve it. So it doesn’t reassure anyone about anything!

Some quick-fire ones now.

Promise: “75% of our customers to be satisfied with the way their complaint has been handled.”

57% of our customers were satisfied with the way their complaint was handled.

Promise: “[We will provide] more than 22,000 days each year to community volunteering”

During 2010, [we] gave 7,547 days of volunteering to their local communities.

Promise: “We will answer 90% of calls in less than a minute.”

We answered 91.4% of calls made to our telephone banking centres in less than 3 a minute.

Hmm, that last one looks good. It looks like they’re meeting their target. And, in fact, they are.

I’ve included it because of the ludicrous way they define the target, which is curiously hidden from the main report.

Their published result makes it look like I can phone up, and my call will be answered by a real person within a minute. That’s actually not true, because there’s often an automated machine answer first. They have then gone on to exclude from the sample anyone who fails to get through the automated machine’s ‘screening’ of calls. If you can’t find out how to speak to an actual person, you’re excluded from the figures. If the machine won’t let you speak to a real person – perhaps because “lines are busy, please try later” – you’re excluded from the figures. Extraordinary.

I can only repeat my advice from last time: 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. Switching is quick and painless. The more you put up bad service, the more these corporate idiots think its acceptable, and the more it propagates.

Please, for the good of us all: Switch!

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Comments and responses

Trackback from elsewhere on the site

19th April 2011.

This post has been referenced by another on this site:
sjhoward.co.uk » Moaning about NHS Mail’s terrible user interface

Comment from eamonn hamilton

    14.53, 20/04/2011

This campaign is aimed at convincing Government and their civil servants that Nat West are “close” to their customers. In the greater scheme of their annual spend this expenditure is peanuts but it does allow the Nat West Board to justify continued Government support. I would suspect that not a single consumer will rush to close their existing account and transfer to Nat West as a result of the advertising.

Eamonn Hamilton

PS: The Nat West PR guru who introduced the word “risk” into the statement about Nat West Bonus pot deserves a gong from the 323 people who benefited from this pot. He described them as “risk takers” but they only take risks with other peoples money ie shareholders (all of us) or depositors (some of us). Nice work while you can get.

Comment from David

    16.56, 27/04/2011

In addition to what you say here, which is good stuff, this Customer Charter crap has pissed me off since I first heard it announced by an earnest-sounding voiceover artist on their TV advert, saying “THIS IS A SERIOUS COMMITMENT”, in a tone of voice that said “it really is you know!”

What do they take people for? Why would I accept their claim that it’s a serious commitment? Of course they’d say that! It’s the sort of statement that can only be taken seriously coming from an independent consumer organisation that keeps tabs on the different banks.

But then that’s advertising in general: organised deceit. They’re telling me what they intend to do, not what they’re doing and how it (fails to) exceed the standards set by other banks. Even if they did give me their rankings in cross-industry customer service metrics, they’d only tell me about the ones they did well in. This is why adverts convey precisely no useful information: the only people worth listening to as a consumer are independent and impartial observers.

Advertising, PR, brand consultancy and all the rest of it is a totally immoral industry that contributes nothing of value to society. At the risk of sounding like I’ve come here post a link, which was not my intention, I do recommend a quick read of http://math-www.uni-paderborn.de/~axel/politics.html#ads which has more to say about this. It amazes me that people are not more cynical than they already are about the crap business spew out in order to part them from their cash.

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