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Consumers alienated by industry focus on sales

  • 13/03/2012
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Consumers alienated by industry focus on sales
Consumers feel personal service has been lost in favour of the sales culture in financial services, according to the Retail Conduct Risk Outlook paper out today.

Research in the paper showed consumers objected to “pushy” sales tactics and said sales and hitting targets are given a higher priority than anything else.

The FSA-commissioned survey showed coupled with inadequate levels of product knowledge and training, the financial sector is seen as offering far worse service standards than any other retail service.

Another criticism centred on the industry’s heavy focus on single transactions and new customers and not enough on ongoing service quality.

‘There is a sense that financial services providers are more interested in new
business than their existing customers and there are frustrations at the apparent lack of recognition of loyalty where special offers are only available to new customers. Many regard this practice as highly unfair,’ said the report.

Poor complaints handling was another area picked on by respondents, where the majority of consumers in the study felt there was ‘no point’ making a complaint about a financial services provider because channels were unclear or too automated.

Scripting in call-centres was also blamed for being a big barrier to effective problem and complaint resolution.

Lack of continuity was also raised, where customers continually had to repeat the problem at each stage of the process, then received neither an apology or admission of responsibility if warranted. Instead, consumers want a single point of contact they can call to enquire about the status of their problem willing to own the issue and resolve matters.

Consumers also want clear, enforceable service timelines and more information on cancellation restrictions and better communication in general from providers.

Excessive or unfair charging were other problems, including premium rate numbers when consumers are placed on hold and charging the same overdraft fee whether overdrawn by £1 or £100.

Consumers also objected to sudden changes to terms and conditions, although financial advisers were applauded for being very helpful on this front, providers reportedly fell short on their promises, eroding trust.

The FSA said: “We are concerned about the continued lack of confidence in the UK financial system. All of the consumers taking part in the study seemed to fully understand and accept the difference between their own poor financial decisions and firms not treating them fairly. This suggests that firms taking action on the above issues are likely to help build increased consumer trust in the financial services sector.”

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