BANKS have to work hard to restore customer confidence after the credit crunch, suggests a survey by three leading professional advisory firms in Huddersfield.
Research by law firm Baxter Caulfield, Robertson Baxter Financial Services Ltd and chartered accountants Wheawill & Sudworth, found "considerable dissatisfaction" with the levels of customer service provided by banks to the region’s businesses.
More than a third of local firms said they were disillusioned with the service they receive from their bank, according to the research.
Some 34% rated their bank’s service as "poor" or "below expectations" while fewer than half felt that their bank had helped them through a period of difficulty.
Some 56% believed the recession had been used as an excuse to increase bank charges, while 61% said their bank’s lending rates were too high compared to the low base rate.
Fewer than 10% of those polled said their bank had promoted the government’s Enterprise Finance Guarantee Scheme – designed to support lending for business growth.
Some 43% felt that their bank had scrutinised their business more since the credit crunch – with 40% being asked for greater security to support their borrowing and 46% believing that the bank was taking longer to make lending decisions.
Stephen Newman, senior partner at Baxter Caulfield Solicitors, said: "Customer care should be a priority at any time, let alone during a recession in which banks are already under scrutiny.
"When we evaluated the results of this research, it seems that few banks have succeeded in keeping their customers happy."
Greg Robertson, director of Robertson Baxter Financial Services, said: "While two-thirds said their bank’s overall service was ‘good’ or ‘very good’, only 20% of those people went for ‘very good’.
"This shows that four out of five people are not receiving top notch service from their banks. In any other walk of life we would not just sit back and accept this."
David Butterworth, of Wheawill & Sudworth, said there seemed to have been a major reduction in staff numbers at local level, leading to delays and fewer resources in the branch. Lending authority had also been centralised with credit teams who did not know the businesses and their people taking longer to make decisions.
He said: "With all this in mind, it is not surprising that businesses are not happy with the service they get from their bank – but I believe that most of the blame for this lies centrally, rather than with local branches."