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Branch is best?

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Foreign call centres and mistakes made by automated systems have convinced many consumers that a return to face-to-face banking is the way to go. Pauline McCallion finds out more

Many banks have moved call centres to foreign countries to keep costs down and with 4,041 bank and building society branch closures between 1995 and 2003, account holders sometimes don’t even have the opportunity to speak to someone in person about their finances. Recent research by Britannia Building Society has shown that 55% of people would rather speak to a person than go online to manage their finances.

Further to this, 2 out of 3 people want to see an end to overseas call centres (language difficulties were cited as the number one complaint) and 46% would prefer a local branch of their bank or building society to be located close to where they live. Although Britannia’s survey showed 51% of people agreed that online and telephone transactions have their place, not being able to choose how they contact their bank or building society was the biggest failing of some organisations, the respondents claimed.

Worryingly, of the 61% of people that would rather speak to a person over the phone than an automated machine, a third confirmed that such systems have misinterpreted their request on more than one occasion, resulting in mistakes to their accounts. Of those surveyed, 48% claimed that for security reasons they don’t like to discuss every aspect of their accounts over the phone.

In addition, making a call to an overseas call centre annoys some people so much that 47% put off making major financial decisions because they can’t face ringing their bank. The survey showed that 10% of people are aware that they regularly go into debt as a result

Neville Richardson, chief executive of Britannia, says: “As a mutual building society, Britannia acts in its members’ best interests, and feedback from our survey has confirmed that face-to-face branch service is still a favourite option.

“We are of course at the forefront of new technology and provide both telephone and online services from our customer contact centre in Staffordshire, but we are also committed to maintaining an extensive branch network so Britannia customers have the option to choose the services that suit them best.”

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