Thursday, June 14, 2007

NatWest: So what should they do?

I have made some very negative points about NatWest bank of late. Really, the service I have received from them since getting back from Australia is nothing short of awful.

But let's be positive. What can NatWest do to improve their service?
  • Empower the customer facing staff. Staff should be there to help customers get the most out of the services offered by the bank. Instead staff currently seem to focus of forcing customers to follow constantly changing processes no matter whether the process is helpful or even appropriate. Currently it seems that most staff, with a few notable exceptions, treat customers with derision. It does not have to be this way.
  • Empower the "branches". By branch I mean my normal point of contact with the bank. NatWest have taken many functions away from the branches and call centers. The centralised services, which are hidden in back rooms, may be cost effective from an operational point of view (and thus apparently good news for shareholders) but it's lousy for customers since few problems can actually be resolved by the branch or any customer facing member of staff. If a real fluid market develops for retail banking in the UK then the shareholders of NatWest may not be so happy with operational efficiency that drives away customers. Of course, we don't have a fluid retail market for retail banking in the UK today, but that's another story.
  • One stop shop. No matter whether my "branch" is a building or a call center they should be able to handle all my needs. What should not happen is customers being passed back and forth between call centers and physical branches to resolve an issue. I have been in this crazy situation with NatWest and in the end the only solution was to go to the branch and call the call center from there with a member of the branch staff sitting next to me. I can tell you that the dirision directed at me that day was palpable ... until the NatWest staff realised what I was being put thorough and then they went rather quiet.
  • NatWest should actually listen to customers and actively encourage them to give feedback. The attitude among most NatWest staff is that the bank is a static thing that can never change so customers must adapt to the bank. This is backwards and the belief that things can never change leads staff to ignore customer feedback and even to take every customer comment as a criticism (some staff even take presumed criticism personally which creates unnecessary tension) rather than as a constructive suggestion.
  • Respond to customer feedback and make it obvious that you are doing so. The bank must not merely become responsive to customer feedback, it must be obvious that actions are driven by customers.
None of this should be too hard for an organisation as well funded as NatWest bank. All it needs is some genuine commitment from the leaders in the organisation.

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