Natwest’s Progress Report on their Customer Charter: How much difference has it made?

Natwest’s customers may have been pleased when last June they announced their 14 Customer Commitments designed to make Natwest “Britain’s Most Helpful Bank”.

However, there may also have been some concern that the targets they set were somewhat modest, particularly on the measures to do with how people feel about their dealings with the bank.

For example, aiming for a target of 9 out of 10 customers being very satisfied with how friendly and helpful the service is, should prove far from impossible. Even more modestly, Natwest set themselves a goal of 75% of customers being satisfied in the way that their complaints were handled: that should be achievable surely?

To learn then that Natwest’s first progress report shows that they have not achieved these targets, and that levels of satisfaction with complaint handling is down at 57%, may have been a bit of a let-down.

Of course when dealing with changes in organisational culture, 9 months is not long. Natwest say they have been re-training all their customer service staff in complaint handling and that “we know we have more work to do” on customer satisfaction with the friendliness and helpfulness of staff.

To their credit, they are somewhat of a lone voice in the wilderness with the high profile nature of their public commitment to the customer. And they have achieved 20 of the 25 goals they set themselves across their 14 Customer Promises.

However, only 2 of the 25 goals they set themselves are related to how customers feel about their interaction with the bank. How bank employees, rather than the products of the bank, make customers feel.

This doesn’t seem to be a fair representation of how much this actually matters to customers in relation to the other Promises that Natwest has made. And a cynic might suggest that perhaps the other sorts of promises made in the Charter are non-people based commitments. They call on practical changes that provide product features that the customer will value and which are considerably easier to achieve. Extended opening hours, clearly explained charges and 24 hour call centres are all things that customers like, but they are far easier to achieve by a focused board of executives than a real change in how much your customers like dealing with you.

Only 2 of the 25 goals are about how Natwest employees engage with and help their customers. Yet a bank cannot be helpful: it is the people who populate that bank whose helpfulness defines the nature of the organisation. Everyone, from the front-line to the boardroom, will create Natwest’s chances, or not, of becoming Britain’s most Helfpul Bank.

Being proud of the steps that have been taken is all very well, but if on the only 2 Promises made about customer service, you have fallen short, perhaps it is time to focus much more energy and resources on the people who make it happen.

Granted, it may be that training will take some time to really make a difference. And perhaps Natwest has specific plans to seek out and recruit people who love to deliver friendly and helpful service.

However, if so, they are not talking about it. With the exception of some training, there is no mention of specifically how they are aiming to increase customer satisfaction with the interactions they have with Natwest employees.

There is no discussion of how they are seeking out the best people and assessing their predisposition to deliver outstanding customer service, no mention of how a customer service culture will be communicated and supported and no indication of how management practices will change so that customer service is on everyone’s minds, across the organisation, at all times.

Targets are one thing, but real change is another: if Natwest can select, develop, appraise and promote all its employees with a clear view to their customer service orientation, it will be well on the way to its target of being Britain’s most helpful bank. If it can make the customer experience the focus of everything that everyone does, it may well achieve it.


5 Comments to “Natwest’s Progress Report on their Customer Charter: How much difference has it made?”

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