The bank is running a press campaign this week inviting customers to offer opinions on home buying and mortgages on its “your bank” microsite. Opinions will be used in the development of future products and services.
It is part of a long-term wide-ranging strategy to canvass the opinion of customers in a bid to “shape banking” around their needs. Recent examples of the approach include personalised debit cards and the bank’s features store, an online hub that allows customers to pick and choose account features and products.
Sara Bennison, marketing communications director of Barclays’ UK retail division, told Marketing Week the bank will continue to be “overt” in canvassing views “on what we should be doing” promising several initiatives in 2013 that “demonstrate we have listened and done things differently”.
She adds: “We want to do it [listening to customers’ needs] the best way we can possibly do it. We don’t want to do this half-heartedly, we want to be the best at what we do.”
Barclays’ brand took a hit in July when it was fined millions by the City watchdog for manipulating the rates banks use to lend to each other – LIBOR – a scandal that led to the resignation of chief executive Bob Diamond and a barrage of negative headlines about corporate greed.
YouGov BrandIndex data finds Barclays’ Buzz ranking – a net balance of negative and positive comments consumers have heard about a brand – has fallen 14.85 points in the last six months to -22.85 putting it bottom of a list of 27 high street bank brands.
Bennison says the “your bank” initiative and changes instigated by new chief executive Antony Jenkins will help restore trust in the bank’s brand to the same level as that enjoyed by branch staff.
“Trust on a day to day level within the bank is strong. Trust in everyday interaction with branch staff is strong but trust in the brand has taken a knock.” She continues: “ If we do the right thing and we demonstrate we are doing the right thing and we are prepared to engage that will help bring back some of the trust that has been lost.”
She adds: “I see what the organisation believes internally and it is not the organisation that is portrayed, the organisation people see from the exterior…..Sometime it takes a big crisis to force a big change. I have seen it with other brands over time.”
The battle between banks to convince customers it is them that is listening most keenly to their needs is well and truly on.
The non-shareholder non state-owned banks such as Nationwide were the first to employ the strategy when sniffing an opportunity to exploit public disquiet in banks this summer following the LIBOR rate-rigging scandal and the technical glitches that beset Natwest. HSBC followed suit with the launch of “Viewpoint” too collect the views of customers on how it can improve its products and services.
Barclays is trying to trump them all with a very public bid to put the future of its retail banking proposition in the hands of customers. This is not the cynical move some might argue it is, however.
CEO Anthony Jenkins has set himself the task of tipping the balance of its business back towards retail and in doing so, ensuring the proposition is best in sector. Product and service innovations, dropping financial incentives for branch staff and now “your bank” are all a means to the same end.