Belfast Telegraph

Two Northern Ireland banks get lowest marks in the UK for service

BY CLAIRE WILLIAMSON

Two of Northern Ireland's biggest banks have been named as the UK's worst performers in a customer satisfaction survey.

Ulster Bank and Bank of Ireland came out bottom of a Which? on-line poll, suggesting current account customers feel short-changed when it comes to service.

The poll, a twice yearly study, was carried out with 1,631 UK current account holders.

Leading the way was banking giant First Direct with a customer satisfaction rating of 85%.

But languishing at the bottom was Bank of Ireland which had a rating of 41% and Ulster Bank in the second bottom spot with 45%.

Which? said the Bank of Ireland received just two stars out of a possible five for customer service, communication, clarity of statements and branch availability.

The consumer watchdog said that although the Bank of Ireland had faced controversy in recent months after it increased costs for some tracker mortgage holders while the bank rate has remained at an historic low, it wasn't possible to tell if this had had a significant effect on the attitude of current account holders.

In response to the poll, Bank of Ireland said: "Recent research conducted on behalf of Bank of Ireland by an independent research company (Ipsos Mori) of 4,000 people, of which 350 are Bank of Ireland customers, showed us that 90% of customers are satisfied/very satisfied with the bank. We will continue to strive to improve on this figure."

It is thought Ulster Bank's score reflected a series of computer-related faults which put its service into meltdown last year. There were more problems in March.

A spokesman for Ulster Bank said: "Whilst our own extensive surveys provide much more encouraging results, we do not like to see even a small number of customers express lower levels of satisfaction than we expect, and we continue to work hard to improve customer satisfaction across the board."

Many of the banks in the survey don't operate in Northern Ireland. Of those which do, the highest performer with branches here was the Co-operative Bank, which came fourth overall with 73%.

The survey looked specifically at current account holders and said that big banking names such as Barclays, Halifax and Santander should try harder as they all achieved below the average score of less than 62%.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said it was clear the big banks have a lot of work to do to improve customer service.

He said: "For people unhappy with their current account provider, switching should get easier and quicker from this autumn, and we hope that more customers will put pressure on the poor performers by voting with their feet."

Chief executive of the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland Antoinette McKeown said: "Through our work with the banks, progress has been made in tackling consumer concerns but there is still more to do.

"A new current account switching service starting in September 2013 should improve confidence when switching banks."

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