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Have satisfaction scores improved service quality in banking for UK consumers?

Key findings

  • In 2018 the Competition and Markets Authority first published banking satisfaction scores, with the aim of boosting competition and improving outcomes for consumers. 

  • Overall satisfaction in banking services has not improved significantly since the data was first published, suggesting it is not having the desired effect of boosting competition and driving improved outcomes. 

  • Satisfaction in bank branch services specifically appears to be declining. 

Demand-side solutions in the retail banking market

In 2016, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) concluded that action was needed to improve competition in the UK retail banking market. There was high concentration of market share, with the top 4 banks collectively holding 70% of main personal current accounts (PCAs), typically the current account which wages are paid into. Compared to other markets, consumers were very static with only 3% of PCA customers switching banks in 2015. 

Rather than supply-side interventions, like breaking up the biggest banks, the CMA opted for mainly demand-side remedies, aiming to encourage greater consumer engagement in the market with the aim of boosting competition. These included the collection and publication of banking satisfaction metrics so consumers could more easily compare banks, improvements in the Current Account Switching Service (CASS), making it easier for consumers to switch banks, and the development of the open banking API standard which allowed consumers to view their transactions and make payments through third-party apps.

Satisfaction data was expected to boost competition by encouraging consumers to shop around and switch banks. If the intervention is working as expected, we should observe an increase in consumer satisfaction levels over time. In this article we explore how satisfaction levels have actually changed over time.

Has banking satisfaction improved over time?

Banks are ranked* on their consumer satisfaction on a range of services (overall, in branch services, overdraft and mobile and digital banking). The overall percentage score is based on the proportion of those in the sample who are either extremely or very likely to recommend their current account provider to friends or family.

These rankings are meant to ease the decision making process for consumers, by making it easier to compare banks. If consumers use this information to decide who to bank with, it should increase the incentive for banks to improve their service quality, and we should in theory see improvements in the average market levels of satisfaction over time. 

To uncover whether this has occurred in practice, we aggregated all of the available service metric rankings to date (from August 2018 to February 2022). As shown in the chart below, the overall average satisfaction level has not changed significantly over time.

*Note: there is a different ranking for Great Britain banks and Northern Ireland banks.

The average satisfaction for personal current accounts (PCA) is consistently higher than the average satisfaction levels for business current accounts (BCA), but in all measures the levels are not improving significantly over time. Even the satisfaction in the highest ranked banks have not improved over time, ranging from between 79-89% over the last three years.

Satisfaction in bank branch services has decreased over time

The questionnaire also measures satisfaction in specific banking services (online and mobile banking, overdraft and services in branches). The chart below shows the average service satisfaction scores for personal current accounts in Great Britain.

These results show that consumers are consistently more satisfied with their bank’s online and mobile services compared to the other services. However satisfaction in bank branch services has continued to fall since August 2018, although the absolute change is small. The survey data doesn’t detail the reason behind the answers, however the lower satisfaction in services in branches could be linked to the declining bank branches available in the UK.

Conclusion

Early indications show that the satisfaction in banking services is not improving over time. However we do not know what is causing this flat satisfaction. Is it that consumers are not using this information as expected when making switching decisions, meaning the dynamic benefits of competition are not as expected, or have consumers developed higher expectations over time? Sadly from this data, we’re unable to say. More in-depth analysis is needed to understand the reason why the satisfaction levels have not changed to be able to improve them in the future.

Contact us

If you have any questions or would like to find out more, please email Denise Lovett at consumerinsight@which.co.uk

Published on 31.03.22

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