The business finance websites of the nation's top banks are failing small businesses, according to a survey by Xbridge, the UK's leading finance intermediary for small businesses.

In a poll of over 500 small businesses, 61% of customers rated their bank's business website as either poor or very poor.

The results showed that small businesses were worst served online by the Bank of Scotland and Lloyds TSB, where almost three quarters (72% and 71% respectively) of their small business users could not obtain the services they required. HSBC faired only slightly better, failing to impress two-thirds of its users (61%) with its online offering.

According to the research the UK's top providers are Abbey, which is currently managing to satisfy just over half (55%) of its small business customers, and Barclays which despite failing more than half of its customers (53%) still managed to be rated among the nation's best.

Xbridge's research illustrates that not only are banks wasting money and valuable resources on online services that do not fulfil their small business customers' requirements, but they are also missing out on millions in lost revenue as potential customers go elsewhere.

Brad Liebmann, Managing Director of Xbridge said "The value of the internet continues to grow and it will over time become the largest lending channel. Although a few of the lenders appear to be focussed on improving their online offerings, the results show a remarkable lack of foresight by the majority of the UK's largest lending institutions."

He continued, "Banks need to be more committed to delivering an effective customer experience online. Employing interactive technology capable of finding the appropriate financial solutions for individual small businesses would significantly increase the banks' revenue derived online."

Xbridge is the UK's leader in creating online platforms for financial transactions for small business. Their technology allows precise measurement of every move the customer makes online enabling banks to tailor solutions based on the small business customers' unique needs.

How can the banks deliver what the customer wants?

1. Stick to what they know best - lending. There are dozens of non-bank websites that provide quality small business guides and information. The banks should not try and compete, instead they must focus on superior delivery of the core products such as online banking, online quotes for financial services and recommendations of financial service tailored to the individuals needs.

2. Focus on customers not products. Most bank websites are overloaded with multitudes of confusingly labelled financial products. Interviews with business banking customers confirm why the Abbey site ranked top because it is focussed on the customers rather than the products.

3. The navigation of the site should be kept simple. The bank's brand can buy 12 seconds of potential customer time. If they haven't compelled the potential customers to remain on their website by then they will move on to a competitor.

4. Customer interaction. Very few banks provide tailored, online quotes for core banking services. Lloyds Success4business does provide online quotes for invoice finance, but the service is hidden behind the registration process which is off putting for many customers.

5. Use technology - not humans to deliver better customer experience. Some enquiries are extremely valuable opportunities. Most are not. Proper segmentation enables highly qualified sales specialists to efficiently respond to the high value minority.

6. Don't guess - measure. The web enables precise measurement of every action the customer makes online. Capture this data, analyse it and use it to develop and fine tune the online offering.

For more information contact:
- Joe Laing - 0207 294 3649
- Jason Lloyd - 0207 294 3686
- Rebecca Mayo - 0207 2943646

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