Banks vs retailers in credit card customer service

Banks vs retailers in credit card customer service

Published on: February 06, 2013
Author: Epticablog

There are many similarities between banks and retailers. Both sectors have large, geographically spread branch/shop networks, and in many cases are facing the same challenge of balancing online and offline channels to meet changing consumer needs.

As part of their strategy retailers have aggressively been moving into new markets – offering everything from insurance, bank accounts and telecoms to credit cards. Many of these are products that were traditionally the preserve of banks, leading to increased competition and (hopefully) a better service for consumers.

So who is winning the battle between banks and retailers in the credit card market? New research from uSwitch points to retailers gaining the upper hand when it comes to keeping customers happy. Traditional branch-based banks failed to win a single award in its annual credit card satisfaction survey, with retailers such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Co-op, M&S and John Lewis leading the way. While First Direct won two awards (including Best Telephone Customer Service), other banks fared poorly. RBS came bottom in five categories and Lloyds TSB was voted worst value for money in the survey of 10,000 customers.

In the wake of misselling scandals and part-privatisation banks already have a poor reputation with consumers and the uSwitch study shows that retailers are taking full advantage. Given that 1 in 5 credit card customers owed more than £5,000 on their cards, delivering good service and products tailored to consumer needs are imperative if banks are to fight back in the credit card battle.

What do banks need to do if they are to improve credit card customer satisfaction? Based on Eptica’s experience there are four areas that they should focus on:

Clear communication

Like every regulated industry credit cards must have extensive terms and conditions to protect customers. But that doesn’t mean that communication with consumers should be unclear or overly complicated. Banks need to train their staff to clearly explain products such as credit cards and make sure that information is visible and understandable on their websites. What are the questions potential customers are likely to ask? Make sure that the answers are simple to find – and simple to understand.

Multichannel customer service

Consumers want high standards of customer service – whichever channel they choose to contact you on. This is no different when it comes to credit cards, as they demand the ability to get in touch and ask questions through websites, web chat, email, phone and social media. Credit card providers need to deliver a joined-up service so that customers receive a consistent service across every channel.

Value for money

Obviously consumers are looking for a good deal when they take out a credit card. Traditionally this meant low interest rates, but customers are now looking for more rewards from their provider. Retailers have exploited this by giving cashback in the form of gift vouchers or linking spend to their existing loyalty points scheme. It is up to banks to follow this trend and show customers they value their custom – even if they pay off their balance in full at the end of every month.


Today’s consumers want to be able to manage their accounts themselves, without needing to call or email their credit card provider. So companies need to make it easy to do this – with secure online facilities, mobile and tablet apps and even self-service telephone systems. This not only puts the customer in control, but it also increases efficiency t as it allows contact centre agents to focus on answering a smaller number of more complex queries.

As retailers move further into financial services with other banking services, now is the time for banks to learn from their competitors and put customer service at the heart of everything they do.

Tags: banks, Co-op, Credit card, Customer experience, Customer Service, Eptica, first direct, John Lewis, Lloyds TSB, M&S, RBS, retail, Royal Bank of Scotland, Sainsbury, Tesco, uSwitch
Categories: Contact Center, Customer Experience, Customer Service, E-commerce, Finance, Multichannel Customer Service, Retail, Self-service

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