Stand Up To Banks
This morning I was reading an article in my local Sunday tabloid newspaper (Adelaide’s Sunday Mail) about how consumers should stand up to their banks and demand a better deal. With interest rates in Australia in the 5-7% range it is important that home owners ask for better rates from their bank and the customer service that supports their relationship.
This got me thinking about a recent experience that I have had with my bank and how we have starting falling out of love!
My Current Bank
I have been with my current bank, BankSA, for 15 years. This bank looked after me with my first home loan and couplde with an excellent relationship that we have had with the loan manager it has been our first port of call for all of our loans (on to our third house!)
Recently I was in the USA on a study trip to learn about credit cards and personal loans from colleagues in the States. I was amazed to hear about fixed interest rates at 2% and how customers refinance all of the time down to lower rates.
During the trip my cash card expired. When I contacted BankSA they told me too bad and that I should have checked before I left as they usually only send the replacement card 10 days before expiry (I was in the US by then!) Basically there was nothing that they would do, so too bad. Luckily I could withdraw cash from the credit card, so I was OK.
I decided at that point that I was out of love in my banking relationship with BankSA, so I would look at alternatives.
I have had a credit card with one of Australia’s Big 4 banks since the late 90s. Westpac have a strong credit card loyalty program (Altitude) that I had accumulated serious points with and was a Platinum customer with the card. In recent years I had really noticed the difference in service between Westpac and BankSA, even though Westpac overall makes less money from me that BankSA did. I had also toured their Contact Centre and studied their main point of difference, a real focus on the Net Promoter Score (NPS) to provide exceptional customer service. This is quite interesting as Westpac owns BankSA and the differences are amazing.
So in the last couple of weeks I have decided to buy an investment property, so I used this disturbance to contact Westpac to see what they could do for me.
My first point of call was on a Sunday when I rang to make an appointment with a Loans Manager. This went well and the next day I was referred to a Loans Manager for an appointment on Wednesday.
When I arrived at the branch I was greeted by the Manager (when has this ever happened to you!?), who introduced himself and expressed that he hoped that he and the Loans Manager could win my business. The Loans Manager spent some time learning about me, my financial position and why I wanted to switch.
Without prompting he understood quickly that service was more important to me than the rate. He informed me that while arranging loans is his primary role, that his goal is that he is the conduit for me into the bank and that I should never ever need to call the contact centre, that he is available to me, like a personal banker. What a change! Banks are starting to realise that there is competitive advantage in having a one-to-one relationship with a customer rather than treating them all the same or in segments.
Next he offered me a rate that was 1.1% below my current rate and a 0.83% discount off the advertised rate.
Over the next couple of days he went on leave, and even during his leave he has contacted me twice to keep me abreast of the final rates and approvals. I have never ever experienced this before from a Bank and it has made me move from my thinking from being ho hum about banks into a promoter.
And to think that this has all really originated from the customer service that I have received as a result of good customer service from this brand over the phone. Needless to say that he has won my business!!
From time to time we have to challenge whether we have the right relationship with our banks, utilities and other financial relationships. Not only can we save money, but we can also be treated the way that we should expect.
My banking is now all with Westpac which makes me more valuable to them and I will also bring my financial planning to them to further enhance the relationship. But if the service wanes, then I will challenge this through another market scan.
So stand up to your bank – are you getting the deal and service that you deserve? If not challenge them or switch!