Belfast Telegraph

Bank vows customer services overhaul

By Margaret Canning

Northern Ireland’s biggest bank has vowed not to keep customers queuing for more than five minutes as part of an overhaul of customer service.

Ulster Bank’s new promises to customers follow research it carried out into attitudes of 3,000 customers north and south.

Mike Bamber, the bank’s head of retail markets, said the new commitments were driven by what customers said in research, the biggest-ever commissioned into public attitudes to banks.

With bank charges the most common complaint, the bank has said it will send free text messages to warn customers when they are about to go beyond their overdraft limit — though charges if they do go into the red without authorisation will still |be applied.

The bank has also promised not to close any of its 236 branches in Ireland, despite widespread cost-cutting measures including 3,500 job losses at its parent, the 84% taxpayer funded Royal Bank of Scotland.

In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph — published in full in tomorrow’s Business Telegraph — Mr Bamber said the position of Royal Bank of Scotland and its indebtedness to the public was not the reason for the new commitments but attributed it to a drive to transform the low esteem in which banks are held by the public.

Its promises also include an undertaking that “all the people you deal with, whether in a branch or on the phone, will be helpful and knowledgeable”.

The bank’s progress is to be independently audited by business advisers Deloitte every six months from next year, with Deloitte’s findings to be published on Ulster Bank’s websites.

Mr Bamber said: “We are doing this because we recognise that banks need to change and we want to put the priorities of our customers at the heart of what |we do.

“We’ll use Deloitte to review how well we’re fulfilling our commitments or, equally, where we need to do more. We will continue to listen to our customers who will ultimately judge us on our performance and we will be open and honest about this feedback.”

The Consumer Council welcomed the bank’s new commitments. Head of money affairs, Julie McCurley, said: “The Consumer Council and customers will be able to measure whether Ulster Bank has achieved these commitments or not and will review and challenge their progress when the results are published.”

Belfast Telegraph