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What does customer loyalty mean to a bank? In my expierence, nothing. In a recent BBC Watchdog survey on banks they listed the best & worst performers, not surprisingly the best known UK banks performed rather poorly & that included the Bank of Scotland, part of Halifax Bank of Scotland or HBOS for short.
Courtesy of the BBC the final results read: (Percentage figure is the amount of customers satisfied) 1, First Direct 87.2% 2, Smile 81.8% 3, Co-op Bank 73.9% 4, Royal Bank of Scotland 51.3% 5, Nationwide 47.9% 6, Yorkshire Bank 43.3% 7, Clydesdale Bank 38.2% 8, Alliance & Leicester 36.13 9, Nat West 33.8% 10, Lloyds TSB 29.9% 11, HSBC Bank 29.7% 12, Barclays Bank 21.0% 13, Bank of Scotland 19.8% 14, Halifax 16.3% 15, Abbey 6.6%
Reading those results from Feb 2008 you would feel sorry for anyone who banks with Shabby (sorry Abbey!). I had been with the Clydesdale Bank since I was a schoolboy, a Scottish based but Australian owned bank. In recent years the service they provided declined, the cash machines were forever empty; the queues at the branches were getting longer with less staff serving & the interest rate on my current account became laughable.
Apart from that, they did away with the enquires desk at my local branch forcing you to queue for the slightest enquiry, pester me for loans when I eventually got to a kiosk & threaten to clamp my car & tow it away if I parked in their car park for too long.
With my wages paid into the account monthly plus emergency cash which I like to have, I managed to get 12p interest from them after Alastair Darlings took his share in tax. I ask you 12p!! If the interest rate was to carry on like this for the next few years it would take me four years to save up my interest to have enough to purchase a Daily Mail. If the money went to my head I suppose I could blow it on a Tesco own brand bottle of water in 2-3 years time!
Customer loyalty is not a term most banks would understand & it got to the stage with the Clydesdale Bank that I just had enough. In May last year Bank of Scotland was offering just over an incredible 6.00% interest rate, less tax, on anyone that signed up to their current account. You had to pay in a minimum of £1000 a month (i.e. wages) into the account & the interest would be limited to a maximum of £2500 in the account.
It worked out 60 times more than what the Clydesdale Bank could offer & many other leading banks, too good to be true? Well on top of that they would also give me a £100 bonus into the same account for signing up. Before I moved banks I gave Clydesdale a last chance to offer me a better rate, I mean I had been a customer with them for quite some time. Their attitude was take it or leave it, I left it.
I made enquires at the Bank of Scotland & although it was a limited offer the rate would remain the same for a long period of time. I made up my mind & decided to move banks. Us Brits are more inclined to move house than move banks but I was so fed up with Clydesdale that the decision wasn't hard to make.
I couldn't do much about it on the day I enquired, the bank made an appointment for me to come back with usual things, photo ID, utility bills, wages slip & other bits of information. I think he even asked me to let them know if I wore 'Y' fronts, boxer shorts or ladies underwear!!!
I returned a couple of days later & was escorted into an office to apply for my account. The young lad I spoke to the previous time forgot to ask me to take £100 with me to open the account but we managed to over come that problem. The application didn't take very long, the usual questions, the young lad who served me was very quick & efficient, just a pity a customer facing member of staff like him didn't have a personality. It was like dealing with a machine, no humour, no meaningless conversation, maybe he had problems at home or with his girlfriend or even his boyfriend!!
Anyway he stated that the account would be up & running in exactly a month, they would have a 'direct debit team' who would handle my DD's & a special overdraft would be put in place for 30 days in case something went wrong. He also stated that my £100 bonus would be paid into the account at the end of the following month. He also stated that I could apply for internet banking & telephone banking if I wished & gave me the details to apply. I would also get a cheque book, all good stuff!
A couple of days later a letter arrived welcoming me to the new bank & details on the time frame they would all be working to. My internet banking facility was easily set up with special passwords & PINs sent to me & by the second week the 'DD team' sent me a list of my direct debits for my perusal. Although they sent me incorrect details, a quick phone call to a UK call centre resolved the mistakes. I didn't bother with the telephone banking service as I feel a branch plus the internet facility is all I need.
The following week my old bank telephoned to confirm if I was leaving them. They asked me why? This gave me an ideal opportunity to have a right good 'rant' at them about all their problems. It felt good getting that off my chest!!
By the time my new account should have been opened I was getting concerned about how my direct debits were going to be paid & from which bank. I telephone the Bank of Scotland asking why there was a delay & they explained it was because my old bank was dragging their feet on this issue. Maybe I shouldn't have given them such a 'rant' on the phone as they were getting their revenge on me!!
Anyway by the sixth week my account was up & running & all was well, except my £100 bonus never materialised. I phoned the local branch, the young lad I got stated that the offer is no longer available; I explained to him that I was promised it when it was available. He came back apologising & explained that because my account was delayed it would be paid at the end of the following month, August.
August came & went, no bonus arrived so I telephoned them again, I must have got the same young lad who gave me the same answer, that it's no longer available. I once again explained that it was when I opened the account & it was promised for the end of August. He came back, apologised & stated it would be paid at the end of September.
September came & went & still no bonus, once again I telephoned & yes, I got the same young lad & yes he said, it's no longer available. I was beginning to think I was dealing with a taped message on machine but he explained it would be paid in late October, which thankfully it was or I would have ended up putting him onto my 'friends & family' telephone list in an attempt to get a discount!!
Since then despite poor customer ratings from the BBC poll, the Bank of Scotland has given me good service. I never have to queue longer than a few minutes at the branch, the cash machines are never empty & there are no signs in the car park warning me of clamping & the removal of my car. When I phone them for information I get put through to a local branch fairly quickly.
Their internet service is excellent; I signed up for 'no postal service' & receive all statements on line. My only gripe is the statements they send me are all a month out of date, one click of the mouse & I can get up to the minute statements. Why bother sending me statements?
I have made more interest in the first four days of my account than I made from my old bank in one year, my interest could pay for a whole year's subscription to the Daily Mail including the costly Sunday edition!!
Would I recommend this bank, well apart from a few minor hiccups & on the evidence of the first nine months, I certainly would. Happy banking.