First Direct tops customer poll
First Direct has retained top spot in a customer satisfaction poll of current account providers while Barclays languishes in bottom place for the first time.
Santander, Nationwide, the Co-operative Bank and its internet bank brand Smile rounded out the top five in terms of how happy customers are with their current account service, according to the twice-yearly survey run by MoneySavingExpert.com.
NatWest and its sister bank Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), which have been beset by a string of high-profile technical glitches in recent years, took two of the bottom five places, along with HSBC and Lloyds Bank.
Less than half of consumers rated the current account service provided by Barclays, NatWest, HSBC, RBS and Lloyds as great.
First Direct, which is an internet and telephone banking brand belonging to HSBC, has consistently topped MoneySavingExpert's consumer survey since it started in 2008. More than nine in 10 (92%) of consumers rated First Direct's current account service as great.
Welcoming the findings, Tracy Garrad, CEO at First Direct, said the bank's staff work "tirelessly".
At the other end of the results, one quarter (26%) of people who voted in the Barclays category rated the current account service as poor and just under two in five (38%) described it as great.
A Barclays spokesman said the findings do not tally with its own research into how happy its customers are.
The spokesman said: " Even one dissatisfied customer is one too many, and we are constantly working hard to improve and innovate our services.
"Whilst this survey doesn't tally with our comprehensive and independent customer satisfaction scores, we will learn any lessons we need to in order to do better in future."
Santander, which spent four years at the bottom of the survey after it started, has shot up the rankings into second place, with 72% of customers saying it gives a great service. The turnaround in Santander's fortunes has been put down to the launch of its innovative 123 current account, which offers cashback on bills as well as interest of up to 3% on balances.
Steve Pateman, head of UK banking at Santander, said the bank has been working hard to make its service better, adding: "Whilst we know we have more to do, we continue to focus relentlessly on improving the levels of service to ensure we deliver."
Despite the Co-op's recent woes from its financial turmoil and the drugs scandal involving former chairman Paul Flowers, its customers ranked the service they get from the bank highly.
Smile came third in the survey, with 72% of customers describing the service as great, while the Co-op came fifth, after 70% of its customers gave it the thumbs up.
The Co-op recently launched a fightback for the customers it shed in the aftermath of its scandals, including conducting a widespread customer survey around its ethical policy, which it plans to relaunch soon.
Meanwhile, TSB now sits higher than Lloyds in terms of consumer satisfaction, according to the results.
Lloyds TSB split into two separate banking brands last autumn, but on the first day of TSB's big re-launch, TSB and Lloyds were hit by an embarrassing glitch which left customers unable to log on to internet banking. Both banks have revamped their current account deals since splitting.
Some 7,875 votes were cast in total and banks with fewer than 100 votes were not included in the results.
New rules came into force last year which have cut the length of time it takes to switch your current account to up to seven working days. The switching service also means that existing incoming and outgoing payments automatically transfer to the new account.
Guy Anker, managing editor at MoneySavingExpert.com, said: "With current accounts, customer service really counts. Whether you bank online or in-branch, this is the one financial product you do genuinely have a real day-to-day interaction with.
"Some banks are delivering the goods with both innovative accounts as well as good customer service. Just look at Santander; in 2012 it was bottom of the table but it has stepped up."
He continued: "This should be seen as a stark warning that the big banks risk losing customers if they don't raise their game."
Here are the percentages of consumers who ranked the current account service provided by each bank or building society as great, followed by those who said it was OK and lastly those who said it was poor ( percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding):
1. First Direct, 92%, 6%, 2%
2. Santander, 72%, 22%, 6%
3. Smile, 72%, 22%, 7%
4. Nationwide, 69%, 25%, 6%
5. The Co-op, 70%, 23%, 7%
6. Halifax, 55%, 36%, 9%
7. TSB, 52%, 36%, 12%
8. Bank of Scotland, 49%, 39%, 12%
9. Yorkshire Bank, 45%, 45%, 12%
10. Lloyds Bank, 47%, 40%, 13%
11. RBS, 46%, 37%, 17%
12. HSBC, 42%, 43%, 15%
13. NatWest, 38%, 46%, 15%
14. Barclays, 38%, 36%, 26%