As part of sharing best practice in customer service excellence, Budd has been talking with senior managers, past and present, from first direct to try and illuminate why they are so successful in the eyes of customers. We’ve found radical differences, from what’s typical in most companies, and in the way managers related to customers and staff.

Visionary leadership has been the driving force in creating a customer-oriented culture, which would still be seen as revolutionary by most companies today.
This presents some challenges to learning from first direct. You may be about to start a new business, and if you could assemble a brilliant team, you could follow the heart of first direct’s successful strategy. But for most people, unless you are that brave new CEO with budgets and shareholders backing to match, that’s too hard when your business is already running. Probably the next best examples of this are Nationwide and National Australia Bank for businesses already in flight.

What we did see in the research was that we could distil our findings (by no means all of them!) into 100 key things that anyone could use. Some themes repeat as you’ll see, and we make no apologies for that. You may know a few or a lot of the points but do you do them?

Do you do them all? Can you deliver all these brilliant basics, year on year?

first direct’s management has used great design and leadership to deliver brilliant basics, to make the customer experience Fast+Simple, to avoid doing dumb things to customers and staff, and to close the loop between customers, projects and operations.

Despite the disparaging comments that other financial services make about it being smaller or less complex than older banks, we believe first direct, like Amazon, is one of those businesses that is very rare. Customers certainly think it’s great, and our research shows why, even if other banks remove them from their benchmarking because it spoils their comparative graphs!


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