According to figures released over the weekend a record 2.2 million customers complained to Britain’s biggest banks during the first six months of this year. Or, put another way, a customer complained every seven seconds!

The banks were deluged with complaints about mis-sold insurance, investments and mortgages – pretty much the things that are core to their business.

This prompted Justin Modray of the financial website CandidMoney to comment: "Banks seem to have a total disregard for their customers. They might project a friendly face, but behind the scenes they’re pressuring staff to hit ambitious sales targets which inevitably leads to mis-selling, a key cause for complaint."

It all paints a sorry picture, reinforced further by the LIBOR scandal – which is likely to escalate as investigations continue.

And yet the banks claim that the problems are exceptions and that customers are at the heart of their culture. It just doesn’t add up.

So the question is whether Boards and Executives don’t understand their culture and how it influences the behaviours of their people or they understand it but they really do have a disregard for their customers. My view is they genuinely want to have positive and mutually beneficial relationships with them but this is undermined by two things. Firstly, short term thinking prevails, resulting in an unhealthy focus on the achievement of targets – at all costs. And secondly, that they don’t understand in sufficient detail how this focus translates into processes, behaviours and ways of working that damage the relationship and produce complaints.

Fundamental change is still required. But a pre-requisite for that is a deep understanding of the current culture, its causes and its implications.

Twitter: @accordengage
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