Interactive Investor

NS&I boss apologises as customer service complaints drag on

18th March 2021 14:19

Sam Barker from interactive investor

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Pandemic caused a ‘perfect storm’ for the savings giant.

The head of National Savings and Investments (NS&I) has apologised for poor customer service last year, as the firm tackles a backlog of thousands of complaints.

The complaints stem from a huge influx of customers to NS&I last year, when it offered some of the best savings deals on the market.

Speaking to a Treasury Committee yesterday, NS&I chief executive Ian Ackerley said Covid-19 had created a “perfect storm” for the firm. It has 6,700 outstanding complaints, which should be cleared by the summer.

In the final three months of the year, around 40% of customers abandoned calls to NS&I as these took too long. Its normal average is 5%.

Ackerley said: “I apologised before and I apologise again today. The recovery plan is on track. I, and my team, are fully committed to getting back to a high standard of service.”

NS&I has 23 million customers, but had a major influx last summer, when it did not cut rates on its deals the way its rivals did.

This meant its average transaction volumes rose from a norm of 10,000 a day to around 120,000, while it also had reduced staff due to the pandemic.

It then had a rush of customers leaving when it announced cuts to those rates in September.

NS&I was set up in the 1860s and has many old systems. Ackerley said the customer service issue was worsened by the state-backed institution’s reliance on “the three Ps” – paper, people and phones.

The company will also design the ‘green bonds’ announced by chancellor Rishi Sunak in his Budget at the start of this month.

The world’s first sovereign green savings bond is meant to help drive the country’s transition to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The funds raised will be earmarked for projects such as renewable energy and clean transportation and the products will be offered through NS&I.

Yesterday Ackerley would not give updates on the rate these bonds will pay, but said they would be “accessible” to all sorts of customers. The Treasury will pick the areas the bonds invest in.

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