In an endeavour to improve customer satisfaction, Santander UK Chief Executive Ana Botín has taken the decision this week to bring call centres back from India to the UK.
Actually, "to improve customer service" is possibly looking at the situation glass half full when perhaps it's actually half empty. More accurately, the move appears primarily motivated by a desire to reduce customer dissatisfaction.
Call centres were offshored in 2003 (when the banking operation was known as Abbey – acquired by Santander Group in 2004).
Interestingly, the FT reports that Santander UK's move follows a diktat by the UK's Financial Services Authority that banks publish complaint numbers for the first time in 2010, making Santander more visibly the most complained-about bank for the first half of the year, and second only to Barclays during the second half.
I say "more visibly" because no doubt it was already quite visible to Santander UK's customers. It follows then that few of them will have been telling friends and family members how delighted they were with the Santander UK service. Quite the opposite. And despite a traditional reluctance for British bank customers to change banks, no doubt this situation cannot have been good for business.
The FT article states that Ms Botín "made a point of stressing that investment was vital to improve customer service – implying that her predecessor had gone too far, too fast to cut costs."
In The Business of Influence, I discuss the possibility of call centres becoming essentially a profit- rather than cost-centre; a critical membrane for creating more customer evangelists and for organisational learning. In moving marketing, public relations, customer service and all the influence processes from being influencer-centric to influence-centric, by focusing resources on the influenced (Santander's existing customers) rather than prospects, Santander UK is more likely to achieve its objectives sooner than later. To its satisfaction. To the delight of its customers. To the delight of its shareholders.
On the basis that Ms. Botín appears to be on a journey to drive customer satisfaction rather than simply eliminate dissatisfaction, I've decided to send her a free copy of my book. I wonder what she'll make of it. I wonder in fact if Santander UK might make an awesome Influence Scorecard case study (the briefest of web searches indicates that the organisation has adopted the Balanced Scorecard to some degree).
Time will tell, as indeed will Santander UK's reputation.