UK banks offer poor online customer service

The quality of online customer service provided by British banks and building societies has been shown to be particularly low, with half of the companies checked failing to answer a simple online inquiry, a study has revealed.

Mystery shoppers attempted to get satisfactory responses via the websites of 52 major financial services firms in the UK and Germany. In the UK, 53 per cent of the companies targeted failed to answer a simple query submitted via web forms. Email enquiries were not answered at all by 18 per cent of the banks contacted, while 35 per cent didn't even provide a contact email address.

"We were surprised at the poor level of customer service revealed by the study, especially with UK banks and building societies being so reliant on a superior customer experience to differentiate their brands," said Marchei Bruchey, chief marketing officer at Kana Software, which commissioned the survey with IBM.

Bruchey argued that the speed of change to adopt online banking had caught financial institutions on the hop.

The findings also revealed that online banking users had good reason to be concerned about communication security, with only 29 per cent of banks providing encrypted and secure communication channels.

"One of the biggest deterrents to people who want to use online channels is problems with security. It's so important for companies to encrypt their information, and I was quite alarmed by this figure. You definitely need to provide good security, whether it's by mobile or the web," Bruchey said.

The only aspect that UK financial services businesses seemed to do well in was making phone numbers available, with 97 per cent providing them and 74 per cent providing multiple numbers. However, only 53 per cent provide web forms and none offer web chat.