MRM’s Young Money survey shows that young people, namely 20-somethings at university and in the workforce, find the customer service of UK banks severely lacking.
Less than a fifth (17%) would recommend their current their current banks, blaming a lack of access and poor communications practises.
While much of the world is moving towards online banking and phone banking (when it works, which it doesn’t particularly in the UK), most of those surveyed expressed a desire to visit their bank branch in the physical sense. Unfortunately 23% of those did so only to find the branch closed.
Unlike most civilised countries, it remains difficult to find an open bank on a Saturday, and damn near impossible on a Sunday – the times most convenient for… well… most consumers?
Others were left frustrated with complicated security when attempting to access their accounts. 11% said they had failed in an attempt by their banks to verify their identity, either on the phone, online or in a branch.
As anyone who has attempted to use secure cards from Barclay’s or HSBC can testify, online banking is borderline psychological torture. Entering three passwords, your dog’s name, your DOB, DNA coding and retina scans (just kidding) before generating silly little numbers on a calculator means that online banking – designed to be used as a convenience – is now so damn difficult I personally (and most I speak to) can’t be bothered.
It certainly can’t be used outside the home (without carrying said calculator around). Hence the bank visits. At least then there’s someone to shout at.
[Ethics statement (and another good example): HSBC locked me out of my account for a month after I ‘repeatedly failed security checks’. They refused to talk to me on the phone to resolve the matter, accusing me of being a fraudster. Eventually I went into the bank and yelled at my bank manager. It turns out they had entered my birthdate wrong when opening the account. I was then asked if I perhaps got my own birthdate wrong. I am in the process of another (more serious) dispute with HSBC, which is in front of the Ombudsman. But we won’t go into that]
As MRM’s research shows, the move to phone banking hasn’t gone much better – "This has often added, rather than removed, the friction from bank/customer relations, according to our research."
10% of kids surveyed admitted to hanging up prematurely during a phone call to their bank due to being "frustrated or angry". Those in their early 20s (20-24) were more likely to have done this – 13% compared to 7% of 25-29 year olds.
More worryingly for the banks is the effect this behaviour has on their reputations. No, this is not meant to be a joke in light of LIBOR, CDOs, RBS, Bob Diamond and the rest.
Quite simply, poor customer service, in the modern interconnected world is effectively anti-PR – these kids are jumping straight onto their social networks to vent, says MRM.
While 7% of young people in their 20s say they have complained about their bank’s services via social media, less than half as many – 3% of the survey group – reported the problem solved by contacting their bank via social media.
One would suspect that most right-thinking bank managers would like these figures to be closer.
"Young people are highly savvy when it comes to the internet and the use of social media is now second nature to them. The financial industry has tried to keep up with the times – internet banking is an incredibly useful development for busy young professionals, and certain institutions are winning plaudits for their Twitter engagement," said Iona Bain, a Young Money blogger.
Most of the UK banks have completely missed the boat when it comes to mobile banking apps, which are either broken (HSBC), limited in functionality (Barclay’s) or just plain boring (Natwest, RBS and co). Compared to banks in Australia and the US, they lag severely behind.
53% of youth consumers as part of a Yougov survey said they would use mobile banking apps if they were available and working.
A few samples from the survey:
"I haven’t ever recommended my bank but I do like them most of the time. Although, I have to admit, it’s mainly because when they have messed up in the past they have given me money for it. I also like that they have a nice secure online system."
Katie Moss, Prestatyn, Wales
"I opened an online savings account with one bank and had the worse experience ever. When I couldn’t transfer my money online due to their complicated system, I called them up only to be told they couldn’t help me as I failed my own security checks! In the actual branch, they were also rude and slow. I have now closed the account and would definitely not recommend them to anyone else."
Jack Jewitt, London