Making a difference for our Customers
At Ulster Bank, our core purpose is to serve customers well. This is at the core of our ambition to be number one for customer service, trust and advocacy.
In the past year we have stayed focused on driving improvements to service and products to meet the changing needs of our customers. Flexible service has become more important to them than ever before.
Recognising this we enabled more of our staff to meet with customers in their homes or workplaces at a time convenient to them. We support this with a countrywide presence of customer support teams, including mobile mortgage managers, financial planners and private relationship managers who are available to meet customers when and where they need us.
Banking is transforming rapidly, responding to changes in customer needs and technological innovation. Whilst our branches will always be an important part of our service offering, we continue to see more customers switch to mobile and online services as their preferred way to bank with us. Investment in these areas is paramount. By partnering with new financial technology (fintech) start-ups in Ireland and by leveraging the scale and investment capacity of our parent bank, RBS, we have been able to fast-track new mobile and online services.
Customer trust and satisfaction
Delivering continuous improvements in customer satisfaction performance is a clear priority for us given our targets for service, trust and advocacy. We compare the detailed metrics from both Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) and Net Promoter Score (NPS) measures year on year to drive a programme of positive changes for customers.
Throughout the year customers are invited to rank their level of satisfaction with our service. The responses are analysed and findings reported to us by an independent research company.
The table shows the CSI scores for each of the business areas measured.
We also measure satisfaction by the Net Promoter Score (NPS). Customers are asked how likely they would be to recommend their bank to a friend or colleague, and respond based on a 0-10 scale with 10 indicating ‘extremely likely’ and 0 indicating ‘not at all likely’. Customers scoring 0-6 are termed detractors and customers scoring 9-10 are termed promoters. NPS is established by subtracting the proportion of detractors from the proportion of promoters. The table shows the NPS scores for the last three years. Year on year, both Personal Banking and Business Direct (serving sole traders and smaller business customers) have exceeded our 2016 NPS targets.
Resolving customer complaints quickly and effectively is fundamental to good customer service – and an opportunity to show our customers how much we value their business. We encourage all colleagues to welcome a complaint, take ownership, and resolve it there and then if possible. Where the issue is more complex, it is referred to a specialist member of staff to resolve. You can see more details in our Sustainability Report on how we’re working to reduce complaints and resolve them more quickly.
Supporting vulnerable customers
A customer may be vulnerable due to a physical or mental disability, sight or hearing loss, serious illness, stressful life event, financial stress or other issues that may mean a customer needs extra support from us, either temporarily or long-term. As part of RBS, Ulster Bank customers benefit from a pan-bank programme to improve the experiences of customers in vulnerable situations. Amongst the key developments in 2016 were:
- All employees whether in customer-facing roles or not undertook training to ensure awareness and understanding of situations where customers may need extra support.
- Our mobile app was updated to ensure it is accessible for people with sight loss and to improve overall accessibility features.
- Our product development teams undertook specific training to ensure the needs of vulnerable customers are considered from the outset when designing new products and remain relevant across all stages of product implementation.
A bank-wide Dementia Hub was put in place to ensure our employees have access to up to date resources and support to meet the needs of customers with dementia. We signed up to the new Dementia Awareness Campaign and are working to implement the requirements of the new Assisted Decision Making Capacity Act.
We introduced a new Community Protection Advisor role to raise awareness of vulnerability issues and provide guidance and support to our frontline staff so that they in turn can respond with empathy to customers who find themselves in vulnerable situations.
Helping more people access a bank account
Alongside our digital services, branches and network of non-charging ATMs, our customers can also access many services through An Post outlets and through our mobile banks operating in many rural locations.
We introduced a new basic bank account– the Foundation Account – in response to the EU Payment Accounts Directive. The new account offers many of the features of a current account but without overdraft facilities. It is designed to support financial inclusion for EU residents regardless of their financial circumstances, credit history, personal bankruptcy, employment status or level of income. It is available to asylum seekers, undischarged bankrupts and those without a fixed address for whom opening a full service current account can often be difficult. In 2016 we opened 6,821 accounts without credit facilities, improving access to banking for customers in Ireland and the EU.
Protecting our customer’s money and data
RBS and Ulster Bank invest heavily in fraud prevention and detection systems to keep our customers’ accounts and information safe and secure. Training on fraud prevention and detection is mandatory for all our employees, not only those serving our customers.
Equally, we are working to help our customers protect themselves against frauds and scams. Our fraud prevention team was active on the ground last year, delivering 14 customer awareness events, reaching 600 business and personal customers. These information sessions feature video footage of common scams, show the devices and tactics used by scammers, and give guidance on protecting personal and business accounts. We’re also using social media as anincreasingly powerful way to update customers on ways to protect their identity and money.
Specifically for our business customers, we updated our ‘Fraud – Know the Risk and Protect your Business’ brochure, launched a new ‘Could you spot a scammer’ leaflet and improved our Security Advice web pages – making it easier for customers to find information on fraud. For more information on our approach to customer information security please visit our Security Centre
Helping customers to own their homes 2016
One of the most important ways we add value to our economy and society is through lending to customers – whether providing mortgages to help people buy their homes, or lending to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) or corporate clients.
Low supply and rising demand – for rental property, private and social housing – are currently driving rising rents and house prices in Ireland, especially in urban areas. These are issues of concern to us and to many of our stakeholders, as they have a negative impact on housing affordability and therefore on lending demand.
Helping a customer to buy their own home is one of the most important services we provide. Likewise, supporting them throughout the process and providing flexible and responsive service can make a big difference to their lives. We lent €1.04bn in new mortgages in 2016, an increase of 48% on 2015. This helped increase our share of new lending by 4%to c. 18.5%. We introduced our new mobile mortgage manager service, which offers customers the choice of meeting a mortgage adviser in their own home at a time that suits them. This allows for a more relaxed and helpful service, and has been welcomed by borrowers. We also offer customers €1,500 towards their legal fees and a free standard valuation, helping to make home loans more affordable. During the year a range of fixed rate options up to seven years fixed were available to borrowers, with discounted rates for existing account holders. Existing mortgage customers rolling off a fixed rate are offered the same rates as new customers.
Supporting Ireland’s SME’s and Innovators
Managing the daily banking needs of SMEs and providing funding to grow their businesses has always been our focus. As a leading business bank in Ireland, that’s one of the ways we support economic growth and jobs in our economy. Download our 2016 Sustainability Report to learn more about how our Relationship Managers and Sector Specialist Teams are helping start-ups, SME’s and farmers to grow their businesses.