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Home > Opinion > Jeff Prestridge

Nationwide’s shining customer service example

If all companies took customer service as seriously as some shining examples, maybe we would trust the industry more than we do

By Jeff Prestridge | Published Apr 11, 2012 | Your Industry | comments

It is why the mutual is currently spending a fortune (£1bn) investing in its infrastructure so that its growth in new business is not compromised by creaking systems and poor administration.

Proof of this commitment to stellar service and putting customers first can be found in the latest complaints data from the Financial Ombudsman Service. For the second half of last year, only 12 per cent of Nationwide complaints landing at the arbitrator’s door were overturned in favour of the customer. To put this into perspective, the industry average was 72 per cent. In other words, seven out of 10 industry complaints should never have ended up with the Fos. For Nationwide the ratio was nearer to one in 10.

No wonder, it is one of the few financial services companies that boasts about its Fos complaints data on its website – rather than hide the figures away. Indeed, it has a whole section of its website (your.nationwide.co.uk/stats) dedicated to customers and what customers think about the society. Currently, 93 per cent of customers are satisfied with Nationwide.

The society’s latest attempt to raise customer service standards even further is a project called Clear Blue Water, an initiative that involves all the society’s employees bar those like Mr Beale that sit in the boardroom. The objective is to get the society to maintain customer service levels ahead of its major rivals. And if the employees carry it off, it will mean the sharing of a £30m bonus pot.

For payments to be triggered, the society’s customer satisfaction rating, independently assessed by market research company GfK, must be 2 percentage points above all leading banks and building societies this month (all the indications are that this has been achieved). Provided this hurdle has been attained, then bonuses will be paid if the rating moves 4 percentage points ahead of all rivals and is then maintained at this level for at least six consecutive months. In theory, come October, 16,000 Nationwide employees could be wearing broad smiles the width of the Mersey.

Of course, Nationwide is not the only financial services company that is keen to raise the customer service bar. First Direct is a bank dedicated to slick service while Handelsbanken is beginning to make its mark with a business model devolved down to branch level. Other organisations that pride themselves on excellent customer service include Coventry Building Society and NFU Mutual (see if you can find their names among those included in the Fos complaints data – you will not because they do not generate enough complaints).

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