“Effective handling of customer complaints is fundamental to a firm’s ability to provide a satisfactory service and ensuring the ultimate customer experience.” A Barbadian from Britain gives her views…

Alison Weekes, Fifs, MSc, Int.Dip.Comp Banking & Compliance Professional UK

The Increase in Bank fees. Is this reflective of the Customer experience? I note with interest the various comments in relation to the announcement of the increase in bank fees by FirstCaribbean International Bank. We will in the coming months, see whether the strategic plans and income structure of the other competing financial services firms in Barbados will dictate that they too will have to increase their fees.

One wonders where`s the customer’s place in all of this. A fundamental in the business of banking is the nature of the banker-customer relationship. Traditionally, it was believed that ‘the customer is king’, where has this value now gone? It can be asked whether the Financial Services Institutions that are increasing their fees have actually considered the experience their customers have when transacting business with them and whether this is commensurate with the hike in fees.

In continuance with their treating customer fairly focus and to ensure clean and orderly markets, the UK Financial Services Authority published its review of the handling of customer complaints in banks in summer 2010. The FSA heightened the regulatory requirement for banks to place increased focus on the quality of service to the customer to ensure that they are treated fairly. Who ensures the customer is treated fairly by Banks in Barbados?

An approach to justify the increased fees would be to introduce a mechanism or benchmarks to ensure that the banks are made accountable for the quality of service they provide. Senior management are committed to increasing rates, where necessary, to satisfy their income structures which is understandable. However, to maintain transparency and confidence in the banking sector, they should also be required to evidence how engaged they are in the delivery of improvements of service and real value for money to customers. This is probably a focus that the regulators in Barbados could consider if they want to maintain confidence in this segment of the market. The time old retort moral suasion does not redound to the customers who are saddled with high fees.

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