First Direct has been acclaimed for its customer management and service for longer than most of us care to remember. In fact, the bank is almost not mentioned any more as an exemplar because it’s become a bit of a cliché, like Apple in the tech world.
In reality, it’s impressive to see that First Direct continues to lead the way in the banking world. It topped a satisfaction survey of current account customers, conducted by MoneySavingExpert in August last year, for the third year in a row, with more than nine out of ten customers describing the service from First Direct as ‘great’. That is something to be proud of, particularly as it seems that the bank’s standards have not slipped since it was launched in 1989. No apparent complacency over 25 years.
From first-hand experience, I can confirm its continuing excellence. We have a joint account and typically now use online banking more than the telephone service. The online experience and functionality is good; we’ve never had any issues.
It’s the human side and, as it turns out, their management of the ‘supply chain’ that distinguishes First Direct. A recent call from them to alert me to a potential fraud meant that my debit card was cancelled and a new one issued. After a few days, no sign of the new card, so I called the bank.
As always, I was quickly through to an operator, none of the usual lengthy options menu and waiting time with recorded music or selling messages. He established that the card had been couriered and then called the courier company to find out their side of the ‘story’. He was then able to tell me that the company takes a photograph of the front door and where they left the package (in the post box in our case) if there is no one at home and they believe that it is secure to ‘post’ the card.
From the photograph, the courier company was able to describe our front door area to the operator, and I confirmed that they had delivered to the right place. It’s still a mystery as to what happened to the package but that seems to be ‘human error’ at our end. I’ve had to cancel and request a second new one, but the whole process was handled efficiently and with a great personal touch.
No doubt there are times when First Direct is less impressive (7% of customers did not agree it was ‘great’) but this was an example not only of their direct customer handling but also how they ensure that their suppliers also provide excellent service.
Their current campaign – ‘Welcome to the unexpected bank’ – is clearly aimed at switching and acquiring new customers. The most welcome aspect, and unexpected compared to many organisations, is their continuing commitment to, and delivery of, great customer service. This is something we can all learn from.