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Answer services top Britons' pet hates

Automated call-answering services unsurprisingly topped the list of Britons' pet peeves, according to findings on sources on irritation with financial services by market researcher Mintel.

Next up were foreign call centres and attempts to up-sell you while you are on the line.

When asked what annoys them most about their dealings with financial services firms, 56% of Brits ranked automated phone systems their top frustration. Overseas call centres came a close second at 53%, and attempts to sell additional products were at 29%.

Some 21% were annoyed at not being able to speak directly to people at the branch. Lack of plain English in banks' terms and conditions in plain English made 19% grumpy, and never being able to talk to the same person twice enraged 18%.

Mintel's head of finance research, Toby Clark, said a human voice could go a long way to soothe customer relations.

Customers' antipathy for foreign call centres was not just about language, but more about poor training and hence lack of grasp of the UK's financial system. Non-conventional requests were another bug-bear, he said.

People were frustrated with what they saw as a move away from traditional personal service to a more aggressive sales culture, he said.

"About a quarter of us believe we have been let down or treated unfairly by financial services organisations in the past few years. And while most disappointed customers do act on their complaints, a sizeable minority (22%) suffer in silence," Clark said.

This silent minority was likely to switch accounts without ever giving the bank a chance to do better, he said. They would also complain to friends and family about the poor service they had received, harming the bank's reputation.

Only 28% of those whom the banks had failed were prompted to write a complaint letter. About a quarter would move their business and 15% had complained to the financial ombudsman.

Clark suggested that retailers' move into banking may be harder than expected. Banks were the most trusted financial services firms (59%), followed by building societies (33%).

People were also more likely to trust a company if it used its service, for example if someone had claimed on their insurance policy.

"People might trust retailers to offer good service and value when it comes to groceries, but it doesn't mean that they're going to trust them to beat the established banks when it comes to treating current account customers well," Clark said.


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