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Provider customer service standards must improve

The ABI’s own Customer Impact Panel has warned the customer service standards of some providers risk damaging the reputation of the whole industry.

This year’s panel survey revealed a number of weak areas including the way providers deal with complaints, with a 7 per cent increase in the number of people who felt their complaint had been managed badly, from 50 per cent to 57 per cent.

The annual report says although the survey shows the progress some firms are making, it also shows “how far some are falling short, putting at risk the industry’s reputation”.

Another area where standards have dropped is the information and service given by providers when they bought a product, with 53 per cent of customers rating this highly compared to 57 per cent last year.

Written communications were also an area where the panel believes the industry needs to do more as the survey results show the communications are not always effective in prompting consumers to take action.

There was no improvement in consumer’s view of after-sale service this year and the panel also criticised the industry for not always presenting a balanced picture when reporting on their own performance under the Customer Impact Scheme.

The panel is calling for the ABI to look again at its Customer Impact Scheme in light of the FSA’s Treating Customers Fairly initiative to ensure they are properly aligned.

Chair of the customer impact panel Melanie Johnson is clear that more work is needed form the ABI’s members. She says: “There is more to do. The scheme’s long-term objective is to improve outcomes for customers, and the good work that has started must be built upon to achieve this.

“We are recommending that firms review their complaint handling processes to ensure improvements continue, and that the valuable insights complaints provide are captured and acted upon.”

ABI director general Stephen Haddrill welcomed the findings of the panel and pledged to work with members to implement its recommendations.

Elsewhere, the ABI had its lobbying hat on this week setting out what it believes the Government should include in the next pre-Budget report to encourage long-term savings.

It suggests inceasing the overall Isa limit to £9,600, although keeping the cash limit at £3,600 as a way of encouraging more people to save long term in equities.

The trade body is also calling on the Government to launch a public awareness campaign to promote the benefit of long-term saving and to discourage consumers from building up debt.

In reference to the many recent disastrous Budget and PBR announcements, the ABI says the Government should look at introducing clear protocols for consultation on tax changes to avoid certainty and “end ill-considered tax measures”.

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