Do Customer Charters drive great Customer Service?

At the end of my last post, I suggested that Veolia Water should give NatWest Bank a lesson or two in Customer Service. It was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek sign-off, but it turns out I was right…

I’ve been a NatWest customer for many years and, until recently, have been very happy with the service they gave me.

I won’t bore you with the details here, but it’s that all-too-common sorry tale of:

• Bank takes charge for something they shouldn’t

• Customer notices, and contacts Bank (17th December 2010)

• Bank says they’ll get straight onto it, so the charge won’t hit my account

• Charge hits customer’s account (29th December)

• Customer contacts bank on 31st December. Is told refund will be in account by 12th January 2011.

• Nothing happens. Customer calls Bank and is told that Bank has escalated it to their Card Services team, but they will ‘monitor daily’, whatever that means.

• As at today (30th January) still no refund, and still no sign of it…

Now I know that this isn’t exactly headline-grabbing stuff here. Most people reading this will have their own (and probably far worse) version of this chain of events. Having spent the last ten years working in banks, I have seen first hand how internal systems and broken processes can sometimes stop the good people in branches and service centres from delivering great service.

So, I turned to the NatWest Customer Charter (http://tinyurl.com/6a2anbz) to find out more about their mission to become “Britain’s most helpful bank”.

It tells us in committment 14…” We will actively seek your thoughts and suggestions on how we can become more helpful. We will launch a new Customer Listening Programme to ensure our staff, including Executives, can hear first hand about the needs and frustrations of our customers.”

All to often, there is a huge gap between the promises of Customer Charters and the reality of day to day service delivery. I have two suggestions that would help avoid the tale of woe above for many customers like me:

1) Give your people the tools and systems to break down internal barriers to great customer service. In my experience with Veolia Water, every single person I spoke to had a record of my previous conversation and actions arising. I have spoken to three different people in NatWest and still my problem isn’t resolved.

2) Empower local office and call centre staff to resolve complaints at the first point of call. Whether NatWest Card Services or NatWest Bank gives me back my £48 isn’t that important to me. Sort it out, refund me and do the internal paperwork afterwards.

I’m not sure if NatWest will reach its goal to become “Britain’s most Helpful Bank”, or how it’ll even know if it does. I just hope that someone, somewhere really is listening.

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