Central Bank calls on Irish banks to improve customer service waiting times

THE CENTRAL BANK has criticized Irish retail banks for their customer helplines and called for improvements.

Following a review of calls between banks and their customers, he found that wait times are excessive with a high number of callers abandoning the call before having their issue resolved.

The review sought data from the customer helplines of the five major retail banks – AIB Bank, Bank of Ireland, KBCI, PTSB and Ulster Bank Ireland DAC – and included a review of daily call volumes and average wait times.

The Central Bank said retail banks needed to do more to supply their phone lines, especially as there is expected to be an increase in demand for customer services in the coming months.

This is due to the number of customers who will have to switch banking services following the decision by KBC Bank Ireland and Ulster Bank to withdraw from the market.

The review by the Central Bank of Ireland highlighted areas for improvement, following an assessment of call waiting times, call abandonment rates and resource levels at banks Retail.

It found that average call wait times on some customer support lines were excessive and exceeded the banks’ internal service level agreements.

“The longest wait times for calls at some retail banks were unacceptable, with customers waiting more than two hours in some cases,” he said in a statement released today.

“Resource levels varied widely across retail banks and it is clear in some cases that resources for customer helplines were insufficient.”

One phone line had an abandonment rate of over 50%.

Following direct engagement, retail banks provided details on the steps they are taking to address the issues highlighted by the review, including increasing capacity and staffing.

A Central Bank spokesperson added: “The review follows a letter from the Central Bank to retail banks in June 2021 setting out our expectations for consumer protection at this time of unprecedented change in the industry. retail banking in Ireland.

“The letter outlined a series of oversight expectations, including that retail banks take proactive steps to manage customer service operations and resources to meet both current levels of engagement and growing forecast of the demand for services.”

Director of Consumer Protection, Colm Kincaid, said: “Given the importance of banking in our daily lives, when we pick up the phone from a bank, we need to get a quick response and good service.

“From our own review and the clear concerns expressed on social media and otherwise, it is clear that banks need to improve their performance in this area, so we have stepped in to demand that this improvement takes place.”

Kincaid added that it is the responsibility of banks to ensure they have sufficient resources, especially to meet the demand of existing and new customers.

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Responding to the call, the Banking & Payments Federation Ireland representative group said 2021 had been an exceptional year due to the pandemic.

Chief executive Brian Hayes said: “Banks have experienced absences of up to 25 per cent on some days, reassigning staff to customer-facing teams and branches to minimize disruption.

“Thousands of contact center staff from all five retail banks have been working onsite to provide essential service through every stage of the pandemic, handling more than 10 million calls in 2021.”

Regarding the expected increase in customer needs due to the exit of two retail banks, Hayes said the transition will be an “unprecedented event” in the history of Irish banking, as more than one million customers will switch accounts.

“This will require the participation and support of multiple stakeholders across the economy, including the banking industry, regulators, utility companies, government departments and agencies, and employers working together.”

“This enormous task is a top priority for the banking industry, its customers and stakeholders and will remain the number one issue at all levels of our operations this year,” he said.

Joseph P. Harris