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first direct is the UK's Top Call Centre for Customer Service

14 Oct 2008

first direct has come first in the latest research from the Top 50 Call Centres for Customer Service. The direct bank scored 92% in the UK's biggest ever call centre benchmarking exercise, conducted by independent market research company GfK NOP. The overall Top 50 average was 83%.

The research consisted of 20,000 mystery shopper calls to 50 of the UK's leading call centres, across five sectors - retail, financial services & insurance, telecoms & utilities, public sector and entertainment, leisure & travel.

Each call centre was rated using over 50 criteria across five key areas of service - timeliness, ease of use, reliability, staff knowledge and personalised service.

Jason Sharpe, Head of Sales and Service at first direct , commented:
"We are so excited to have won this award. It's impossible to explain just how much we put into making first direct a great place to work so that our customers can experience outstanding customer service and to receive this award means that we've got it right. But we never stand still and we're always transforming and developing to make sure that the service just keeps on getting better."

Claudia Hathway, Editor of Call Centre Focus, commented:
"This benchmarking survey represents a landmark for the call centre industry, with 50 of the UK's top call centres prepared to put their reputations on the line in order to raise service standards for their customers. We would like to congratulate first direct for their excellent performance, and indeed all of the Top 50, for such high achievements. We hope this initiative will inspire other call centres to improve their levels of customer service to reach the standards set by our Top 50 members."


For further information please contact Amanda Brown on 0113 2766 700 or

Note to Editors:

Research methodology
In total, 400 calls were made to each of the 50 organisations - resulting in a total sample of 20,000 calls. The mystery shopping exercise is based on a comprehensive analysis of call centre service in five key areas derived from extensive focus group research with actual customers. The report will be published in October 2008.

Calls were split across customer and non-customer assessor profiles and across simple and more complex enquiries. Assessors were profiled as closely as possible to the organisation they were calling and used their real background, contact details to maximise their credibility. Where appropriate to the scenario in question, they had policy numbers; customer reference numbers etc. to hand in case they were asked for these to resolve their enquiry.

Scenarios were constructed so as to be comparable across all organisations and sectors involved. Examples are shown below:

Entertainment, leisure & travel Flight, holiday and accommodation quotes and enquiries, fares and schedules, facilities for children / disabled customers / elderly customers, parking, changing dates
Financial services & insurance Requests for balances / information on recent transactions / standing orders, product / service enquiries, excess charges, insurance quotes (including non-standard risk profiles), checking policy details, changing policy details
Public sector Enquiries about services (such as libraries, recycling, social housing), costs of services, appointment booking, enquiries about benefits / taxes
Retail Store card enquiries, opening times, appointment booking, enquiries about refund processes, catalogue ordering, product detail enquiries
Telecoms & utilities Enquiries about product packages / add-ons, price objections, payment and balance enquiries

Trained mystery shoppers were used for the calling and restrictions were placed on the number of calls made by individual assessors. On the 'customer' scenarios and those where contact details may be requested, shoppers were limited to no more than 1 call per organisation.

Calls were made between May and August 2008.

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first direct has recently celebrated 25 years as an innovator and leader in improving customers’ experience in the UK’s personal finance sector.  To recognise this milestone it approached the Future Foundation to pursue an original programme of research focussing on customer experience.

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