We analysed Banking Customer Experience and here’s what we found: Part 1 – Established Banks


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Customer experience is the new competitive advantage for banks.

Established banks are failing their customers with poor customer experience and most have not done enough to win over customers, while technological advances have given startups such as ‘Challenger banks’ Monzo and Atom Bank a more level playing field to compete with the traditional giants.

Customers now expect to be able to access information about their accounts online and through smartphone apps, which have become an integral part of the banking experience. 45% of UK adults now use a banking app on their smartphone – a figure that is even higher among millennials at 72%. Significant investments in banking applications by Natwest and other banks have taken mobile banking beyond simple balance checks and customers increasingly expect to be able to access further banking services at their fingertips.

Using our customer feedback analytics AI over App Store reviews, we analysed and interpreted the most important aspects of customer experience across a number of established banks directly from the customer’s words.

Now is the time to focus on CX

Our analysis of app reviews shows that banks investing in their mobile platforms benefit from greater positive customers sentiment. Online banking platforms/apps were a source of mixed attitudes amongst customers, with some established banks leading the way in leveraging their platforms as a source of advantage and customer satisfaction. This is likely to be increasingly important as consumers become less hesitant to switch banks, with services such as the UK Current Account Switching Service making it easier to change provider, increasing competition in the sector. Additional changes in the future as recommended by the UK Competitions and Market Authority (CMA) may also require banks to be more transparent with service quality and experience metrics.

Net sentiment scores for established banks (overall)

Basic functionality will cost you customers

As some banks have begun to roll out more features to customers using mobile banking, such as in-app application forms for savings accounts and loans, the ability to modify accounts and spending analytics, customers of banks which still offer only basic functionality are becoming dissatisfied. Natwest and Halifax customers in particular rate the online experience they receive highly, with high net sentiment scores of 85 and 61 respectively. Both of these banks, in addition to Lloyds Bank and Barclays are praised by customers for their ease of use and number of app features. Features including the ability to see pending transactions and also smart analytics of spending were a source of positive sentiment at these banks and Natwest, as they add value by enabling consumers to better track and manage their finances.

Net sentiment scores for established banks (online experience)

HSBC and First Direct received negative net sentiment for online experience, at -61 for First Direct and -80 for HSBC, suggesting it is a key area for improvement. Customers negatively mention the layout and ease of use of online services, frequently citing issues with the setup and login process which involves multiple stages and verification measures. Comments highlighted a number of customers that had ceased use of their HSBC or First Direct accounts or switched away, particularly after seeing the superior products of competitors.

Security and safe handling of highly sensitive data must be central to mobile banking, however established banks take different approaches to building this into the user experience. Some were especially fast to adopt Touch ID on Apple devices and similar technology on Android to enable faster and easier login processes that have contributed to generating high positive sentiment among Natwest and Barclays users. As users have quickly become familiarised with this technology in their devices, it has become seen an expectation among customers. HSBC, First Direct and until recently, Nationwide, have no or limited support and instead rely on long passwords and security keys, a cause of frustration among app users and a contributor toward lower sentiment for online experience.

Embracing new technology has a positive impact on customer experience

The capability of mobile banking to handle a range of transactions and in a fast manner is important to customers. Given their experience in handling millions of transactions every day, customers expect established banks to offer reliable and efficient transaction services. The majority of established banks we studied received net positive sentiments, with only First Direct, HSBC and TSB missing the mark. New transaction capabilities such as PayM (which enables mobile to mobile payment by phone number) and good reliability contributed to much of the positive sentiment where applicable. Glitches such as regular duplicate transactions and complex procedures to transfer funds were detractors, for which customers were not forgiving. Complexity in conducting transactions was most frequently mentioned negatively in comments, which had a visible impact on sentiment at some banks.

Established banks customer support negatively impacts experience

Across all established banks, customer support among users was most poorly received. Overall, net sentiment was negative with the best score of -3 belonging to Lloyds and HSBC receiving -90. Customers of Lloyds Bank praised its responsiveness to fixing glitches and knowledgeable support team, although positive sentiment toward customer support was outweighed by negatives such as poor quality.

Poor service quality was a key driver of the negative sentiment toward customer support, with customers highlighting lack of understanding of agents of their devices and also compatibility issues. Customers of virtually all established banks complained about glitches or problems with accessing their accounts on some devices and software versions, and often found it unclear where to seek support regarding app related issues. Only a few of the established banks offer methods to directly connect with agents through secure messaging, which in some cases lacks functionality such as the ability to initiate new conversations.

Average app score for established banks

Focus on experience not product

Online experience and transactions are reflected in sentiment toward the brand as a whole. We found that, unsurprisingly, banks with positive sentiment toward these two factors were those with the highest overall net positive sentiment and also higher average net promoter scores. These results ultimately imply greater customer advocacy and loyalty, both of which are paramount to success in the increasingly competitive banking sector.

As a result, established banks must take action to focus on their digital experience as consumer expectations of mobile banking evolve. Even without the power of large balance sheets and the data possessed by large banks, challenger banks are already winning over customers. Their typically lower cost structures and leaner organisations may place them better to respond quickly to ongoing and future developments in the sector, so established banks must urgently consider their strategy to ensure they are not left behind.

Fortunately, deep learning technology allows you to break the trade off between quality and quantity of data. Our artificial intelligence understands every piece of customer feedback across channels to provide an aggregate view of what drives experiences and where to optimise for growth.

Jack Miller
I work with organisations to visualise and design their customer journeys to ensure that they are both comprehensive and accurate. By applying a combination of cross sector best practice and an understanding of each business's unique relationship with their customer base, I focus on identifying what elements need to be put in place to take each organisation from their current level of customer understanding to a best in class understanding of all customers.


  1. I think this is very interesting but potentially flawed, particulary how the standard bearer of digital banking, First Direct, performed so badly. Yes, the banks are all established but have very different histories as digital players. Now, this could be for many reasons: 1.Their platforms are lacking the functionality of newer competitors 2.The bank has failed to evolve over the years to reflect their early status as the benchmark – whether actually functionality-wise (service) or emotional disconnect (between what they offer and what they are perceived to offer eg the service offer has evolved but not to the degree expected. 3. That First Direct customers are more demanding, possibly on the basis of longevity of customer relationship, category experience and expectation – so the measure is one of attitude and perception rather actually service. WHich in itself could be interesting.
    How did you calculate the sentiment scores? Are they even directly comparable given possible differences in customer relationship longevity, breadth and depth of relationship, attitdes to banking generally etc etc. With respect, without understanding these factors, the results are potentially meaningless.

  2. I like the analysis in this article – it is good to see actual customer reviews analysed for a number of big names in banking in one place. The findings surrounding First Direct are surprising – I imagine because these are based on app reviews and not overall customer feedback responses, but definitely highlights a weak point in their customer experience. They should be taking note!

    It would be interesting to see actual numbers of people switching banks on factors such as the mobile experience and have this compared side by side.

  3. Aylin, sentiment scores were calculated by the net of all positive mentions of a theme (+1) and negative mentions of the same theme (-1) across all responses.

    We only used publicly available data, so any indications of relationship longevity and depth are only revealed if the customer chose to in their reviews. It would definitely be interesting to see these results analysed with this information and I agree on the expectations front regarding banks such as First Direct. I think the main takeaways here are that customers will and have moved banks due to a poor customer experience on the online and mobile banking side – this means that it is very important going forward for businesses to monitor feedback in this area going forward.


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