Four financial firms you can trust
If receiving great customer service is the biggest factor when choosing which financial firm to go with, these should be top of your list.
What do you look for when applying for a financial product? Are you a bit of a rate-tart – always obsessing about getting the absolute best deal available, whether it’s the highest rate on your savings, or the lowest rate on your mortgage?
There are plenty of us out there who put the numbers first, determined to always get the best possible deal.
However, to just as many people, it’s not the rates but the service that comes first. How quickly do your queries get answered? Will you be able to speak to a call centre in the UK? Do they go out of their way to make your life easier?
The Co-operative Bank published some research recently that found that Brits are more likely to change which team they are following in the World Cup than switch their current account. But does the provider you currently bank with deserve such loyalty?
Today, I'm going to look at firms which go the extra mile when it comes to customers service - and can prove it!
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First Direct has an exceptional reputation for customer service. But is this reputation deserved?
Let's look at the evidence. So far in 2010 First Direct has already won more than 30 awards for its customer service, including a number of lovemoney.com Cheer awards, as voted for by you -lovemoney.com readers - back in January.
Anecdotally, I can vouch for just how effective that service is as well. My own mother banks with First Direct, and despite me pointing out on a number of occasions that she could secure a far higher rate of interest on her money by moving elsewhere, she refuses to even countenance the idea.
That's all very well - but what does First Direct actually do that sets this bank apart from the rest?
- The firm aims to answer all calls within 30 seconds and its call centre is based in the UK.
- First Direct staff are given only the briefest of scripts to follow, so can respond to your queries on a case-by-case basis.
- Staff are also empowered to deal with any complaints or issues should you have them, meaning you won’t be passed around from person to person – a particular bugbear of mine.
What’s more, First Direct put their money where their mouth is.
Move your current account over to their 1st Account and they’ll give you £100 as a welcome present. Should you not be happy and want to move elsewhere after six months, they’ll not only help you move banks but give you another £100!
For older customers, Saga also has a pretty unparalleled reputation for going the extra mile. But what does it actually do to deserve this reputation?
Saga claims its main point of difference is that it aims to keep everything simple. For example, there is no automated telephone system to endure – callers get through to a real person in the UK every time. What’s more, Saga operates a 24 hour claims service, which in the majority of cases does not even require the claimant to fill out any forms, a policy that will appeal to many, but particularly the elderly.
Saga also ensures that all of its documentation is accessible for all of its customers – you can request policy booklets and other printed material in large print, audio or Braille format, while if you have a hearing or speech impairment you can contact Saga via a special email service.
Good customer service, in my view, often means a personal touch. Halifax Insurance is one of the few companies out there that actually puts this into practice.
For example, w?ith all cases that are a little bit out of the ordinary, Halifax appoints a personal claims consultant, who will be the person you deal with at all times – you won’t have to keep explaining your situation to 10 different call centre operatives, as you get passed from pillar to post.
The approach partly comes from research Halifax performed a few years ago, which found that customers just want a common sense approach, where the people they deal with will can make decisions and will do what they say they will.
Making a claim on an insurance policy can be a traumatic experience, so Halifax reckons that this personal approach, with claims handlers taking ownership of cases, is a good one. I couldn't agree more.
It's not so much about how much money you have but what your relationship is with your money. It's all about quality and not quantity.Do this goal
Bupa has introduced a tele-interview service for applicants using IFAs. The thinking was that if you are applying for critical illness, income protection or life insurance cover through an intermediary, there may be some health issues in your past that you feel too embarrassed to discuss with your adviser.
Instead you can request a tele-interview with a Bupa staff member, who is specially trained in dealing with sensitive and personal health questions.
However, what really sets the service apart is that it’s up to you when Bupa will ring. If you are only available at the weekends or in the evening, then you can arrange for Bupa to speak to you then, so you won’t be caught out having to find a quiet area at work.
The service has won praise from both customers and intermediaries alike as a result.
Now this is by no means an exhaustive list. Plenty of firms that I just didn’t have the room to look at offer great customer service too. Why not share your own customer service experiences, good and bad, with your fellow lovemoney.com readers via the comment box below?