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Revealed: The best and worst banks for customer service

Michael Connolly
MSE News Reporter
20 August 2013

Santander is now one of the best in's index of banks by customer service – but its high ranking is only fuelled by its 123 account.

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Our twice-yearly index, which we run every February and August, saw First Direct once again smash the field, this time with a whopping 93% of customers who voted rating its customer service as 'great' over the past six months – the highest score it's achieved (see our Best Bank Accounts guide for the top deals).

But Santander and Halifax have both shown they are raising their game on customer service ahead of new rules from 16 September that will make it easier to move banks, as the switch must be completed within seven working days.

Santander's overall ranking has jumped from bottom to fifth place overall in the space of a year – though this was purely down to its 123 account. Among Santander customers, 75% of 123 holders rate it great, but that figure drops to 62% for the bank as a whole.

Halifax's overall rating has jumped from 38% saying its customer service was great in February, to 53% when asked again this month.

With both banks, we split out their flagship 123 and Reward accounts from the rest of their deals, as they are among our best buy accounts.

But some high street giants continue to let account holders down with poor service. Bank of Scotland languishes at the bottom of our most recent index, with only 36% of its customers rating its service as great.

See the table below for our full findings on which bank had the best customer service over the past six months.

Which bank has the best customer service?
August 2013 (February 2013 in brackets)
Rank Provider Great OK Poor
1 First Direct 93%
2 Co-op – including Smile 76%
3 Santander – 123 only 75%
4 Nationwide 73%
5 Santander – all accounts 62%
6 Halifax – Reward account only 56%
7 Halifax – all accounts 53%
8 Yorkshire/Clydesdale 51%
9 Barclays Bank 48%
10 NatWest and RBS 48%
11 Lloyds TSB 47%
12 HSBC 44%
13 Bank of Scotland 36%

Figures may not hit 100% due to rounding. Ranking calculation: 0 points for poor, 1 for OK, 2 for great. Where tied, higher great rating wins.

Unhappy with your bank? Ditch it

Dan Plant, head of editorial at, says: "It's great to see two of the big challenger banks upping their game after years of rubbish service. But this has largely been down to their focus on specific accounts aimed at grabbing new customers.

"We want to see improvements across all accounts and clear evidence that banks are not neglecting their other account holders, who have remained loyal.

"If you're unhappy with the service you're getting from your bank, ditch it. The new switching rules are likely to bring with them lots of offers from banks trying to entice new people through their doors, so wait and see what you can get, then jump ship.

"We are now just weeks away from the new switching rules so there really is no excuse to put up with bad accounts with even worse service.The big four high street banks need to step up their game, as by not improving their service they are now lagging behind."

A Bank of Scotland spokesman says: "The level of banking complaints across the Bank of Scotland retail network is falling, and at June 2013 these have been reduced by 50% against the same period last year. 

"Getting customer service right is at the heart of our strategy of being the best bank in Scotland."


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