Big Banks Roll Out 14 Promises in ‘Customer Charter’

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“This won’t happen overnight, but we will be open about our progress.”
— Brian Hartzer, CEO
RBS and NatWest

In an effort to repair a brand image tarnished by bailouts, the Royal Bank of Scotland and sister bank NatWest launched what the pair of financial institutions call their “Customer Charter.” Created by and for customers, the charter includes a set of 14 promises clustered into four themes: easy, helpful, community support and listening.

The banks say they condensed “the views of more than 30,000 customers” into the 14-point Customer Charter.

Some of the highlights from the new charter:

  • Early morning and late night opening in 200 branches by the end of the year.
  • Aim to serve the majority of customers queuing in our branches within 5 minutes by introducing a queue measurement tool to our busiest 300 branches.
  • Pledge to stay open for business if we are the last bank in town and will consider a range of options to ensure a local banking service is available.

RBS and NatWest vow to monitor the progress made against each promise, and will make the results public — along with an independent audit by Deloitte.

“Every six months we’ll publish a report to let you see how well we have fulfilled our commitments and identify any areas which need improvement,” RBS promises on its website.

“We don’t expect to achieve all of them immediately, and we know that we have work to do, but we will be open about our progress.”

RBS & Natwest Customer Charter

» We are committed to making banking easy

1. We will extend our opening hours in our busiest branches. By the end of 2010 we intend to have 600 branches open on Saturdays, plus selected branches will open early in the morning or late in the evening.

2. We will aim to serve the majority of customers within 5 minutes in our branches. This year we’ll introduce a new queue busting program in our busiest branches to ensure every available member of staff is out serving customers during busy periods.

3. We will provide you with friendly, helpful service whenever you deal with us. We’re aiming to get 9 out of 10 customers to rate our service as helpful.

4. We will help you to make the right choices for you and your money. All of our branch literature will be simplified and rewritten in line with customer feedback. We will also introduce a new Customer Service Review program by the end of 2010.

5. We will provide a 24/7 telephone banking service. Our call centers are UK-based and we’ll always give you the option to speak to a real person.

» We are committed to helping when you need us

6. We are committed to keeping you safe online. We provide free market-leading enhanced security software for all online banking users, and in July we’ll publish our Online Banking Security Promise.

7. We will help you quickly if your debit card is lost or stolen and you need access to cash. Our emergency cash service is available to all customers whose debit card is lost or stolen.

8. We will continue to be a responsible lender and are committed to finding new ways to help. We don’t provide credit limit increases to those who are struggling to meet payments on their credit card and will continue to work with independent organizations to help people in financial difficulty. We will also introduce a dedicated support team to help those who are falling into financial difficulty.

» We are committed to supporting the communities we work in

9. We pledge to stay open for business if we are the last bank in town and will consider a range of options to ensure a local banking service is available. We’ve already identified over 100 ‘Last in Town’ locations where we’ll continue to provide a local banking service.

10. We will teach over 25,000 financial education lessons in schools in 2010. We will provide young people with financial education through our MoneySense program.

11. We will actively support the local community in which we live and work. We will do this by creating a community fund. In addition, we’ll offer all our employees a day off for local voluntary work with the aim of providing 7,000 days of community volunteering in 2010.

» We are committed to listening

12. We will resolve customer complaints fairly, consistently, and promptly. We are aiming for 75% of customers to be satisfied with the way their complaint has been handled.

13. Twice a year we will publish the most common of complaints. And we’ll strive to address the causes.

14. We will actively seek your thoughts and suggestions on how we can become more helpful. We will launch a new Customer Listening Program to ensure our staff, including Executives, can hear first hand about the needs and frustrations of our customers.

Sounds good. For a bank looking to rebuild its brand image after the costliest bailout in the world, this is an excellent start.

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Key Question: How were staff involved? What communications did they receive? How were they trained and prepared to live out these promises?

Both RBS and NatWest are running ads pushing a new tagline, “Helpful Banking,” in support of the Customer Charter. Global ad agency M&C Saatchi is heading up the campaign, and (presumably) had a hand in the crafting of the banks’ 14 promises.

“We had a searing experience as a business and are thankful we were rescued,” Brian Hartzer, CEO, RBS and NatWest said in a press release. “We have since taken stock on how we do things. There’s a lot we do well for customers, but we can do more and we want to change.”

“This won’t happen overnight,” Hartzer continued. “But the Customer Charter is our pledge that we are on the case and will be held to account against the progress we make.”

RBS, which owns NatWest, is itself 84% owned by the government following a £45.5 ($75 million) bailout that kept it from collapsing during the height of the global financial meltdown.

Further Reading: RBS also has a Customer Charter for its small- and medium-sized business clients. You can also check out manifestos from Citizens Bank and ING.

Customer Charter for Small & Medium Enterprise Clients

This is the first time RBS and NatWest say it has formally published a charter of this kind. “It’s an enduring commitment to our Small & Medium Enterprise (SME) customers,” the banks said. “One that will evolve over time as we continue to consult with all our stakeholders, and principally the organizations that represent business, with which we are already working closely.”

RBS says it will report regularly and fully on its progress, an initiative it’s including undera wider organizational commitment to openness and transparency.

We will help businesses to start up and grow by:

  • helping with cashflow: for the first two years of trading, offering free transactional banking when you start up a new business 1. We help more than 100,000 businesses to start up each year. It is our intention to continue doing so and to remain the market leader for start ups.
  • providing advice and support: through our Relationship Managers and dedicated Business Hotline (telephone number 0800 092 3087 or visit our website).
  • providing free guides, on-line cashflow tools and regular local training seminars: we will adapt these facilities based on feedback from customers.

We will provide access to finance for SMEs by:

  • providing loans and overdrafts to viable businesses: over the last two years we have provided over £60bn of gross new lending to SMEs. It is our intention to continue to make this level of support available to viable business propositions. We will support all reasonable applications from viable businesses 2 and we will continue to provide access to Government lending schemes such as the Enterprise Finance Guarantee (EFG).
  • providing overdrafts on a committed basis: recognizing that businesses need to know their access to working capital is secure, overdrafts will remain in place for the entire term of the agreement unless there is a breach of the terms and conditions of the overdraft.
  • providing support to businesses facing short term financial difficulties: through our specialist teams whose focus will be returning businesses to good health.

We will be fair and transparent on pricing by:

  • extending our overdraft Price Promise: this commits us not to increase the margin on overdrafts on renewal unless there has been a material change in the risks associated with the business.committing not to charge arrangement fees on loans or overdraft facilities of more than 1.5% per annum 3: this means that even if we need to review your overdraft more than once per year (e.g. where you ask for additional facilities), we will still charge no more than 1.5% per annum.
  • providing guidance on the factors that determine loan pricing: our Guide to Lending Pricing explains the factors which influence loan pricing.

We will be transparent when making lending decisions by:

  • always explaining the reasons for our lending decision: we will clearly explain the basis for our lending decision including how we assess whether a business is viable.
  • helping you to structure your borrowing and present your business proposition: we will work with you to determine the optimal lending facility and provide guidance on how best to present your requests for lending to us.
  • offering you the right to challenge our lending decision: The Business Hotline gives you an additional route to challenge us if you disagree with our original lending decision.

These commitments will remain in place until at least the end of 2010 following which RBS and NatWest may alter some of the detail of these principles. However, the overarching themes are intended to be a long term commitment to our customers, typically customers with turnover of up to £25m.

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