Banks get to grips with customer gripes

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HIGH street banks reacted dismissively last week to the news that Barclays is to beef up its complaints handling procedure in an attempt to offer a better service to customers.

They claimed they already had a similar complaints service to that now operated by Barclays, and that they were also ahead when it came to preventing problems in the first place.

Barclays said it was redefining a complaint as being any situation where it has fallen short of customers' expectations, and it is retraining all its staff to deal with complaints.

It is also devising a new complaints form for customers to fill in. They will be given a copy as a record, with staff aiming to deal with the problem within 24 hours.

Chris Lendrum, Barclays' deputy managing director of banking services, said: 'Handled well with a sincere apology, our relationship with the customer can be strengthened.'

A Lloyds Bank spokesman said: 'We have had complaints forms since 1992. A member of staff then takes ownership of the problem and and a time scale is agreed with the customer to resolve the matter.' Lloyds also operates a freephone service hotline on 0800 147789.

National Westminster also operates a freephone system, on 0800 505050, for customers who want to ask about a service or make a complaint.

The bank has a monthly consultation programme, in which it asks 100,000 of its account-holders at random if they are happy with the service they receive.

Midland Bank said the bank operated a system whereby customers could take their complaints directly to Midland's head office. Its customer service department then takes up the issue directly with the local branch.

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