Page 2: Market research
Extensive research and analysis through the research company MORI revealed that certain types of customers were beginning to make less use of the branch network. According to MORI:
- One in five people had not visited their branch in the last month.
- 52% said they would rather visit their branch as little as possible.
- 48% had never met their branch manager.
- 27% wished they were able to conduct more business with the bank over the telephone.
This research was echoed by the Henley Centre for Forecasting, whose studies found consumer demand for better service was higher amongst banks than any other retail sector. The research revealed that friendly and knowledgeable staff were considered most important, alongside convenient opening hours and quick and easy transactions. The results of this research lead to the concept of a new bank which would need to stay open 24 hours a day, offer immediate access - hence the telephone - and most importantly put real people at the other end of the phone to handle customer calls, thereby enabling personal service despite the ‘remoteness’ of the channel, i.e. the telephone.
When First Direct was launched on 1 October, 1989, telephone banking was untested and, to the public at large, was a completely new idea. It is now not unusual to offer personal banking services over the telephone and far from being the choice of the few, it is becoming the preferred method of banking for a growing number of the UK’s 32 million banking customers.
The term “telephone banking” has different meanings for different people. What First Direct means by telephone banking is a person-to-person full banking service available over the telephone 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. The customer lies at the heart of the operation, services are designed to provide the customer with what they want, when and how they want them. Regular market research is undertaken to ensure that First Direct continually exceeds customer expectations.
In an age in which Information Technology makes it possible to deal with millions of accounts by computer, it makes sense for a banking service to allow the advanced technology to do the work. As transactions can be carried out over the phone the necessity of visiting and queuing at bank branches are eliminated. Customers can carry out their banking when it is convenient for themselves rather than when the bank is open.
By centralising the operation in to large call centres economies can be made, which in turn can be passed on to the customer. Better value for money services coupled with enhanced customer service are now designed to meet the needs of individual customers. As First Direct’s chief executive, Kevin Newman, explains: "Telephone banking is a simple concept which has had profound influence, not just in the financial services industry but as the rallying cry for a new kind of retailing which revolves around the needs of the customer - not the supplier."