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personal banking

Bank customers may be "discouraged" from switching accounts

‘Mystery shopper’ exercise carried out for Central Bank finds that communication between consumers and branch staff is “poor”.

RESEARCH CARRIED OUT on behalf of the Central Bank on how easy – or not – banks make it for customers to switch current accounts has thrown up some concerns.

The Central Bank made an on-site inspection at the four main banks and found that there was a low level of switching accounts – only 6,114 current accounts (that’s 0.16 per cent of all current accounts in those banks) were switched between October 2010 and June 2011. The Central Bank said that communication with customers on the benefits and process of switching accounts was “poor”; that complaints related to switching were not always categorised as such; banks didn’t keep track of all relevant documentation to show they were in compliance with the Switching Code and not all the banks regularly reviewed their switching processes.

A mystery shopping exercise was carried out in September this year in 60 bank branches by a third party on behalf of the Central Bank. The exercise found:

  • Only half of the mystery shoppers felt encouraged to switch after the visit
  • Bank staff needed more training and awareness of the Switching Code
  • Only half of staff mentioned the Code spontaneously when the mystery shopper said they wanted to move accounts
  • One-fifth asked the mystery shoppers to make an appointment with a specific staff member rather than deal with them themselves
  • A switching information pack was only proffered in half the visits – and half of those were incomplete
  • Explanations of how standing orders, direct debits and salary payments would be dealt with were provided on just over half the visits.

The Central Bank said that one bank was found to be “particularly unsatisfactory” in its dealings with customers in this area and they have been instructed to make improvements by the end of next February. The other three were given feedback from the mystery shopper visits and have been asked to report back to the Central Bank on how they will improve their service.

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