Is Bank Customer Service Really THAT Bad?

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Carlisle & Gallagher published research looking into consumers’ experiences, attitudes, and perceptions regarding banks’ customer service capabilities. Overall, an excellent study with solid data and sound conclusions. 

The deck prepared by C&G is titled Are Two Calls Too Many in the Eyes of the Customer? reflecting the firm’s conclusion that first-call resolution is critical to customer satisfaction and loyalty. 

My take: I don’t dispute the findings of the study, but I do think that some of the data may be misinterpreted.


Bank Marketing Strategy (written by my friend Jim Marous) covered the study in a post titled Bank Customer Service Still Stinks (read it when you’re done here). As Jim points out:

“One of the impediments to customer satisfaction is that more than a third of consumers surveyed by C&G did not believe their problem* was completely resolved. Of the complaints resolved, 72% of the problems required two or more interactions, with close to 30% requiring 3 or more interactions.”

Very interesting data.

But there is that darned asterisk. The asterisk refers to how C&G defined “problem” (see the graphic below).

What C&G qualifies as a problem for banking customers

The problem here — pun intended — is that customer service isn’t just “problem resolution.” It includes responding to inquiries regarding transactions, and providing information regarding products when asked about it. 

Excluding these interactions may result in underestimating banks’ first-call response rates. 


There is another factor that may skew the results. Intentionally, the study did not include a representative sample of consumers. Half of the respondents have US$100k+ in household income (imagine how well off the country would be if 50% of HHs earned more than US$100k a year). 

The implication of this concerns the complexity of the problems the sample of respondents have had, versus the overall population. 

It’s quite possible that higher income consumers have more complex financial lives, and may therefore have more complex “problems.” 

Is it reasonable to assume that banks should resolve highly-complex problems on the first call as often as they should on less-complex interactions?

Again, the study may be underestimating banks’ first-call response rates.


Bottom line: In no way do I mean to disparage the research (or Jim’s blog post). I don’t dispute the conclusions. But I do think it’s unfair to make a blanket statement that “banks’ customer service still stinks” based on data that isn’t representative (in this case, intentionally) of the overall set of interactions. 

In fact, one could argue — based on the rise in customer satisfaction scores in the ACSI study — that banks’ customer service is improving. 

Remember, though, that I said that “one” could argue that — I didn’t say that I would argue it.

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