Santander brings call centres back to Blighty

Apparently, customers had found dealing with Indian call-centres 'frustrating'. But it's determined to turn over a new leaf.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 31 Jan 2012
Santander, the UK’s third-largest bank, has decided to return all its Indian call-centres to British shores. According to research by Santander, customers had said dealing with offshore call centres can be a ‘frustration that can lead to dissatisfaction’ (which,  in our experience, is putting it mildly). The new centres with create 500 extra jobs in Glasgow, Leicester and Liverpool, ie. the areas hit worst by public sector cuts. Which won’t just ingratiate Santander with its customers – chances are the Government will look rather kindly on it, too.

It’s no secret Santander has had something of a crisis of reputation lately: in a customer service survey by the Financial Services Authority last year, Santander was revealed as the second-worst bank (behind Barclays) in the UK, receiving 165,000 complaints about its services. In November, another poll by JD & Power Associates showed that satisfaction levels were lowest among Santander customers. And another survey by MoneySavingExpert.com (which attracted almost 18,000 respondents), voted it the worst for customer service. So something needed to be done sooner, rather than later.

To be fair to Santander, though, an element of this is cleaning up after its predecessors. Those call-centres were outsourced to India (and Bangalore, and Pune) back in 2003, back when Santander’s UK business was still Abbey. Since it took over Abbey in 2004, though, Santander says it’s improved its record: last year, it created 1,000 new customer-facing roles, as well as a specialist customer helpline, and one line specifically to help staff help customers. Sounds a little strange, but it seems to have worked: the bank says it’s reduced the volume of complaints it has to deal with over the past year, and apparently, 80% of complaints are now dealt with within 48 hours. Good work.  

Of course, there will be down-sides – for a start, UK call-centres are far more expensive. But while British customer service for British people is likely to score plenty of brownie points with the public, Santander seems to have been doing its darndest over the past few months to be in the Government’s good books, too. For a start, it’s one of the few banks credited with meeting its SME lending targets over the past few months, too. So what’s changed? Well, it’s only been six months or so since current Santander UK CEO, Ana Botin, took over the reins at the bank – and it seems to have been all-change since then. Keep up this record, and her father, Banco Santander executive chairman Emilio Botin, will be very impressed. 

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