Bracknell, 17th April 2013: On the 14th of April, leading consumer group, Which?, released the results of a survey which found that as much as 22% of consumer complaints to banks are not being handled satisfactorily. This criticism of the financial services industry was echoed in a second survey released on Monday by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the regulatory body for the financial services industry. These findings follow a troublesome year for the finance sector, leading to widespread calls for major banks and insurance firms to do more to protect the interests of consumers.
The FCA survey states that the total number of complaints made against financial services companies rose to nearly 3.5 million in the second half of 2012. Of this total, an estimated 2.1 million complaints were made in relation to mis-sold payment protection insurance (PPI) policies, a 5% rise on the figure for 2011, says the FCA. Though the genesis of the PPI scandal stretches back more than a decade, it continues to generate hundreds of thousands of customer complaints each month, and remains an ongoing source of mistrust between banks and their customers.
“Since 2008, successive crises and scandals have rocked consumer confidence in the financial services industry, the PPI scandal being a prime example,” commented Irfan Habib, Senior Solutions Consultant at Content Guru, a provider of mission-critical cloud-based communications integration solutions to the financial services sector.
“Trust is one of the most valuable assets that a financial institution can have.” Habib continued, “Businesses in the financial services sector must start doing more to promote greater transparency and protect the interests of their consumers. A big part of this is simply making it easier for customer to get information and services relevant to them, such as interest rate increases or changes in legislation.
“There are technology challenges, because different communications channels have always been considered in isolation in the past. This means the customer experience is inconsistent across different methods – web and mobile banking, calling or emailing a contact centre and using SMS or social networks (if the bank decides to open up those avenues). Technology has now moved on to the point where financial institutions can start to monitor, react and get pro-active with every channel of communication. All these requirements should now be considered elements of the “contact centre”.”
Habib added, “However, there are also cultural challenges, and these will take longer to address. Many banks simply see channels like web and mobile as an opportunity to cut out the cost of providing hands-on customer service. They are starting to realise, as customer complaints rise and pressure from the regulators increases, that this mentality is no longer sustainable, and it will start to cost them – whether they incur penalty fines or simply see their customers go elsewhere.”