Given the challenges faced by consumers in the wake of the financial crisis, Ulster Bank recognised the need to reaffirm its position as a customer-focused and socially responsible business. The bank identified an opportunity to develop a service-led proposition that would help re-build consumer trust and confidence, and add value to our customers by understanding and meeting their expectations.
Ulster Bank carried out extensive qualitative and quantitative research during 2009/10 to better understand the issues that matter most to its customers. This market intelligence highlighted that customers wanted their bank to offer a more helpful service, identifying three key areas of focus:
• Treating customers fairly
• Making banking easier
• Be ‘local’ and support local communities
These findings confirmed the idea of “a helpful bank” as a value-added, credible proposition for Irish consumers. By identifying and delivering relevant proof points that met customers’ needs for a fair, easy and local service, Ulster Bank could provide reassurance and evidence of its customer focus. Over the ensuing months, the bank tested a number of service propositions (with customers and staff) supporting the articulation of “a helpful bank”. The end result of this research was:
1. The adoption of a core customer promise “Help for what matters” - appearing in all our advertising
2. The introduction of a series of Customer Commitments - setting out service targets across telephony, branch and online touch points that mattered most to customers
The “Help for what Matters” programme was launched internally and externally in September 2010. It has become the bank’s long-term strategic focus, knitted into employee performance objectives, community and sponsorship strategies and customer service delivery objectives.
Measurement and feedback represent the key to the success of the programme. Our Customer Commitments are measured and independently assured by Deloitte plc against annual targets. Customers are actively listened to and invited to tell us what they think through our online feedback form, our branches and our ongoing customer panels’ research.
Although in its infancy, the programme has resulted in many positive benefits for the business, its customers and employees. Putting focus back on the customer and on clear deliverables is helping to shape how we service customers. Our employees are enthused about the programme and the part they can play in making it a success. There is strong evidence from our brand metrics and Net Promotor Scores of the benefits of the programme for Ulster Bank’s brand and reputation.
Highlights from the bank’s first Customer Commitments report (July 2011) included:
Treating Customers Fairly:
• Over 800,000 free text alerts helped customers avoid unnecessary charges on their current accounts
• 86% of complaints were handled within two days, with two thirds of customers satisfied with how their complaint was handled
• 8,000 customers were supported with revised repayment arrangements through our debt management service, Flex
Making Banking Easier:
• 91% of customers served within 5 minutes in branches
• 94% of customers satisfied with our account opening process
• 98% of customers satisfied with helpfulness of branch staff and 96% with helpfulness of staff on the phone
• 60 branches open on Saturdays; opening hours extended and no branches closed
• 7,000 students benefited from free financial education through our MoneySense for Schools programme
• Employees devoted 919 days volunteering for local community projects