Every single one of the major UK high street banks has failed the Which? 2012 customer service test.
Between August 2011 and July 2012 Which? analysed the customer satisfaction ratings of 30 financial brands, and found that all of them scored below average for customer satisfaction.
Santander and Halifax scored the lowest, achieving 46 per cent and 48 per cent respectively, and the average score amounted to a mere 62 per cent.
Royal Bank of Scotland scored 50 per cent, Lloyds Banking Group scored 51 per cent, Barclays scored 54 per cent, NatWest scored 56 per cent and HSBC scored 60 per cent.
First Direct came top, scoring 86 per cent, followed by The One Account and Co-operative Bank, with scores of 80 per cent and 79 per cent.
On top of this, Which? also surveyed 2,060 adults and found that only 11 per cent saidthey trust bankers to act in their best interests, and two-thirds of people think that bankers are unlikely to lose their job if they lie or cheat.
In the wake of the news, and with people's expectations of bankers at an all time low,Which? launched a new 'Big Change' campaign, aimed at encouraging banks to put customers first.
It's great to see Which? highlighting the importance of keeping customers satisfied and giving clear information. Gone are the days when bank managers knew you and your family by name; and they're now struggling to keep up with the personal service provided by many other high street businesses.
If UK high street banks are serious about challenging their reputation they need to work hard at ensuring they are putting the customer first - whether it's face to face or over the phone.
It is extremely frustrating to call a bank and get transferred from person to person, repeating yourself because all the staff are working from separate systems. Staff need training that will enable them to take ownership of situations, and provides them with knowledge of and access to the business as a whole.
The process internally needs to be customer focussed as well - making it easy to do business with you. Great service comes from exceeding expectations in every interaction. If the service is joined up and seamless, customers feel valued and listened to - that all important trust grows- something that's pretty crucial for a bank! Transparency and accountability need to be improved too, so that banks hold their hands up and admit when something goes wrong. Sometimes an apology is enough, but sometimes it isn't, so having flexibility is key. The process, training and enabling staff to have this level of responsibility is crucial.
In the banks themselves, taking a more personal approach towards the customers will break down barriers and improve relations. Many banks are now working towards this by removing partitions and glass between staff and customers and making the banks a more relaxed place to be in, however more needs to be done. Banks need to take the time to ask customers how they are performing, and they need to act on their week points fast. By making it easy for customers to complain, banks will receive free feedback on how they are performing. By asking customers to send a letter or call a number that has a long, multiple choice automated response, they are likely to miss the opportunity all together.
Interestingly, Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director, said: "Our survey shows that those banks that go the extra mile to keep their customers happy are rated far higher than banks who may offer slightly better products or interest rates."
This just goes to show you that the level of service a business offers its customers is every bit as important as the product.