Formerly a joint venture between Richard Branson's Virgin Group and Royal Bank of Scotland, The One Account is now wholly owned by RBS. Its main product is a current-account mortgage - a combined mortgage and bank account that is tax-efficient and gives financial flexibility. It's part of the trend for mortgages to become broader tools for the ever-changing financial needs of consumers, rather than just a way of financing property purchases. The One Account's 'one day' branding, which urges consumers to live their dreams today, articulates the freedom that flexible mortgage structures can offer.
Having entered these awards several times before, The One Account staff have learned a thing or two, and among their latest service initiatives is Event Driven Satisfaction (EDS). Until recently, new customers were surveyed on their application experience. But, says service excellence programme manager Miles Bieber, the results were often misleading - too much time had elapsed for customers to give accurate answers. Under EDS, key stages of the customer journey from sales onwards are mapped out and customers are surveyed within 72 hours of each point. With the experience fresh in their minds, the results should be more accurate and the effect of process changes quickly gauged.
A substantial part of The One Account's business comes from mortgage brokers and other financial advisers, so these are also key customers. EDS lets the business see how these partners feel about The One Account's people, products and general service delivery as it happens and identify ways to improve things. A recent survey found that waiting time for calls to be answered was important: this has now been halved to 10 seconds. And a facility to make online mortgage applications is also being developed in response to market demand.
This online and phone-based banking service likes to emphasise its personal touch. It cites examples such as the staff member who took £300 out of her own account to help out a customer who'd had his cards and wallet stolen abroad and couldn't get hold of any cash, and the off-duty employee who came in to help complete an urgent money transfer for a customer who spoke only Mandarin.
Word-of-mouth recommendation is said to have driven a quarter of new business last year. Bieber describes The One Account's 95%-plus satisfaction rating ('satisfied' or 'very satisfied') from customers for its end-user service as 'extraordinarily high for a combination of banking service and a mortgage'.
Staff are encouraged to come up with ideas for improving service. 'Raising the Bar' is a scheme where improvements are expressed in time saved or touch-points removed: in the past year, more than 17,000 customer waiting days have been eliminated in mortgage processing; in One Account servicing, total waiting time has been cut by more than four years, and 80,000 bits of paper have been saved. 'Work-outs', where staff put together presentations for senior managers, are great for boosting employee engagement. If suggested changes are approved, staff have 90 days to implement them. Last year, work-out ideas saved more than £600,000 in costs.
A total of 386 formal recognition awards given last year underline The One Account's aim to build a culture of service excellence. There's a 'Star of the Week' programme, 26 staff received customer service awards at a formal dinner, and two lucky employees won a trip to Barcelona.
The 'one day' idea is used to help motivate staff as well as customers. A recent 'one day' included booking recording time in a professional studio so that a staff member and his band Bad Hair Day could record their album; another allowed a staffer to take his daughter to Lapland to see Father Christmas.