Santander – the worst bank in the UK, really?

Santander has been getting a lot of flack in the press recently.  In fact the Guardian newspaper wrote the following article: “Is Santander Britain’s worst bank?” The article points out that Santander has the highest rate of complaints (per thousand customers) and that this situation has been going on since about 2007.  Yet, the same article points out that Santander has gained over 1 million customers last year and it has a number of products that are considered to be best-buy products.

At about the same time, I received the following document from Santander.

I started banking with Abbey (one of the banks purchased by Santander) over 20 years ago and on the whole things have worked out pretty well.  Yet, at best, I have had what I would describe as a distant, transactional, relationship with Abbey and then Santander.  After all, despite the advertising, one bank is simply like any other.  They are all concerned with making the most money they can from me and it is up to me to look after myself.

Then this document arrived in the post and frankly I could not believe my eyes.  Santander is being helpful.  It is telling me that I can cut down the amount of interest I pay on my mortgage if I take a number of reasonable actions.  Actions they know that I can take – clearly Santander has done its homework.

With this document I find myself facing  cognitive dissonance: trying to reconcile the view that Santander is supposedly the UK’s worst bank and at the same time it is writing to me to provide advice that will help me and ‘cost’ Santander.

Whilst I have yet to make sense of it, I do know that my attitude towards Santander has changed.  I actually feel gratitude.  Is this the start of an emotional bond?

What is the lesson?

I believe that the fundamental lesson for banks (and all other organisations) that want to create loyalty is to be helpful proactively. Use the information and expertise that you have to create value for your customers.  Most will remember and reciprocate by staying with you longer, recommending you and buying more from you in the longer term.