NS&I Chief Exec Apologises For Failing Customer Service
Government backed, NS&I Bank, promises to improve customer service
The Chief Executive of National Savings & Investments has written to MPs to apologise for the standard of customer service offered by the bank over the last year.
Ian Ackerley wrote to the Treasury committee to promise four new call centres to help cope with the demand of customer calls, which comes after changes to the bank’s offering left many customers trying to withdraw their funds and often encountering long wait times and delays.
Mass customer withdrawals
In just the last three months of 2020, customers withdrew £26.5bn from the bank, which resulted in a warning from NS&I that they would be almost £10bn short of their £35bn full-year funding target by the deadline of March. This amount was due to support government borrowing during the coronavirus pandemic.
Two changes to the service offered by NS&I are credited with causing the wave of withdrawals. The first was a cut to premium bond pay-outs and savings rates in November. Anyone with a Direct Saver Account had their interest cut from 1% to just 0.15%, while Junior ISA rates fell from 3.25% to 1.5%. At the same time, the prize fund for Premium Bonds was cut from an effective 1.4% to 1%.
Prize odds significantly altered
The knock-on effect means that the odds of winning a prize from a £1 number dropped from 24,500-1 to 34,500-1. The number of £100,000 prizes also dropped from seven to four, but the two £1m prizes remained.
Alongside this drop in rates, there was a 43% increase in customer complaints when it was announced bond winners would no longer be sent physical cheques – a decision that has since been paused and is under review after many elderly and vulnerable customers complained.
I am very sorry for those customers who experienced poor service last year and I am determined to return NS&I to delivering the high-quality service our customers have been accustomed to for many years now.
Beyond the two changes to the service offered by NS&I, the pandemic itself has been referenced as a cause for some of the customer service issues, including call centre staff being ill, being asked to shield and to stop working to care for family. At the same time, offices in India had to close three times due to the pandemic between March and June due to staffing problems. These operations have since been relocated to the UK.
This has had a significant impact on the processing of bereavement claims, general correspondence and complaints.
On receipt of the letter, Conservative MP and Treasury committee chairman Mel Stride replied with stark words.
The damage that may have been done to NS&I’s reputation over the last few months is worrying. NS&I has a big role to play in helping the government fund the costs of the coronavirus recovery scheme and it will need to work hard to win back customers.