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Ulster Bank is at your service, and getting better at it, says Deloitte

By David Elliott

Ulster Bank said today it is pleased with the results of its first progress report designed to meet its customer commitments.

Carried out independently by business advisors Deloitte, the survey measured how well the bank had performed during the first six months of the year against a number of key targets, drawn up in 2010 following a poll of customers.

Deloitte's report showed over 190,000 customers took advantage of the bank's new Saturday opening hours in 60 of its 236 branches while 67,000 customers have registered for mobile-telephone banking.

In addition, queuing has been reduced, staffing has been improved and the complaints process streamlined.

Around 91% of customers surveyed have been served within five minutes, 98% said they were happy with the helpfulness of branch staff and 86% of complaints were handled within two days.

Meanwhile, 8,000 customers have revised their debt repayment terms through Flex, Ulster Bank's debt management service, while 7,000 students have taken part in free financial education through MoneySense for Schools programme.

But there were a couple of areas highlighted for improvement.

Only 64% of customers were happy with the way their complaint was handled against a target of 80%.

"We are already striving to improve how we deal with complaints," the bank said.

"We have introduced a new complaint handling centre and are training staff in branches to deal with complaints more effectively."

The bank also missed a target to train more than half of its branches on how to reduce queuing times, getting 109 up to speed of the 236 in total.

"We didn't expect to be hitting all our commitments on day one," Ulster Bank's Chief Executive of Retail Markets Richard Donnan said in an interview with the Business Telegraph.

"We knew we had work to do and aim to rebuild trust over a period of time."

Nevertheless, he was happy with the first set of results.

"We're encouraged but one swallow doesn't make a summer," he said.

"This is a living document and will be reacting to the changing needs of customers.

"Although that's not set in stone."

The report shows those changing demands are focused on more convenient banking, in particularly Saturday opening hours.

But Mr Donnan doesn't see a need at the moment for extended mid-week opening hours.

"We trialled early opening and late-night opening and it didn't work, but we'll keep an open mind," he said.

"It seems people want the branches open on a Saturday so that's what we're providing."

But while more convenient opening hours may be high on customers' wish list, does the increased popularity of mobile banking spell the end for bank branches?

"Customers want choice," he said.

"We're seeing that people want mobile banking, seeing customers moving to online and mobile transactions, but still seeing strong footfall through our branches.

"Branch banking is definitely not dead and will remain in place as a key pillar."

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