How does the building society customer experience really stack up?

Michael Fotis, founder of Smart Money People discusses their report published today, entitled Buildings Societies vs BanksThe report examines customer experience across savings and mortgages through the customer feedback left on the Smart Money People website in 2018.   

A blog post from Michael Fotis, the founder of Smart Money People: 

Today we’ve released a report that looks at whether there are any differences in the customer experience offered by building societies and banks, across both savings and mortgages.

The report,entitled Buildings Societies vs Banks looks at the fourteen themes that matter most to customers, including customer service; channels; product features; ease; the skills and knowledge of staff and interest rates.

The feedback was collected in a way that didn’t prompt customers to talk specifically about any of the fourteen themes, they just told us about what matters most to them. And while some customers comment on just one theme, for example customer service, others touch on multiple themes. Our findings are based on the reviews left by bank and building society customers across both savings and mortgages in 2018. This includes feedback about 31 banks and 22 building societies.

So what did we find?


  • Customers of building societies are 7% more satisfied than banks (95% versus 88%)
  • Face-to-face customer service remains at the heart of the building society experience, with customers seeing value in the high quality engagement building societies aim to deliver


  • Customers of building societies are 13% more satisfied than banks (93% versus 80%) 
  • Building society customers value the skills and knowledge of staff and the manual approach to underwriting in particular. If this approach is slower than banks, it’s not being mentioned by customers
  • While customers tend to focus on people themes, such as the skills and knowledge of staff, brokers tend to focus on process themes, such as the speed to completion. Process themes also attract the most negative feedback irrespective of firm type

Two standout themes emerged as part of our analysis: the concept of value for money when it comes to savings and channel preference.

Building society savings customers gave their providers a value for money rating of 93% versus 87% for banks.

Among bank customers, interest rates is the second most discussed theme; it’s in fourth spot among building society customers. So while building society savers don’t talk as much about interest rates, in their feedback, they believe they are receiving better value for money from their providers.

Our analysis also suggests that customers are increasingly valuing the wider building society proposition, which includes more costly things like delivering a face-to-face service.

Channels is another important area for customers. When it comes to savings, banks perform better than building societies around channels, with the ease of opening and managing accounts supported by more extensive digital offerings. But when it comes to mortgages, the story changes. Building societies perform better than banks by delivering high quality engagement via branch and telephone channels.

The report also highlights how channel preferences are changing rather quickly. How building societies blend the high quality engagement that helps to deliver a customer satisfaction edge while meeting the demand for 24/7 channels remains an important challenge.

You can read more about this research and download the report at Smart Money People.