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I thought that given this was to be my 150th review I should look to mark this with a review waxing lyrical on what I think is required to write a good review in the Banking and Finance category especially as I have been the guide for this area for the past few weeks. Hopefully by the time I write my 200th review Dooyoo will have got around to updating the Guide Page with my details and those of the other new guides and taken off the details of the previous guide in this category.
What I wanted to concentrate on in this review is giving some thoughts on what I would look for in a review in the Banking and Finance category however as with any of the categories on Dooyoo there are some fundamental basics that are required as a starting point that are common to all reviews.
The first thing is to make sure that you are writing about the right product or facility. Often in the Banking section you will find that each company has a number of categories relating to their products. For example Abbey National (now simply Abbey in the real world) will have categories for its bank account, mortgages and insurance products. If you write a brilliant review about its bank account and post it in the savings section then all of your good work will not earn the ratings that it could have got had it been in the right category and then you will be asking me to get it moved for which Im considering introducing a charging structure after all this is the banking category where over charging is rife.
Also watch out for the fact that often the online facilities of a company will have a product listing of its own and there may also be a general category of the company as well. In my opinion the general category is for a review of the whole company in general and not a convenient dumping ground for any individual product that has not been suggested yet. It is now easy to suggest a product on Dooyoo and often these are posted a few days after the suggestion is made so in my opinion there is no reason to be lazy and not suggest the product besides once your suggestion is posted you get 10 miles added to your account.
The general rules about writing a good opinion apply in the Banking category just like any other. The review should have a good structure, an opening, middle and clear conclusion. The acid test would be if a reader could read the opening and end paragraph and have a good idea what the product is and whether the writer is recommending the product as a good purchase or not. Further like all reviews personal opinion and experience of the product should be the key component that adds value to the review. If I just want to know all the features and facilities of Barclays regular saver account I will go to the company website or pick up a leaflet however if I want to know how easy the account is to operate and how good the service is on the account I would expect to read that in a review.
One of the things about the financial industry is that a lot of the products are pretty similar and anything that is ground breaking is soon copied. Take for example the launch of First Direct which was soon followed by a host of imitators or the latest glut of Regular Saver accounts offering double digit interest rates. What does differentiate products though is the service provided by the companies and it is this factor that for me is probably most important in a review. Basically as a consumer I want to know why I should take my business to that provider, if I want the best rate I will look in the Best Buy tables and make a decision on that basis but with the majority of products it is the service that I get that will make me stay with the provider rather than chasing a 0.1% better rate on my ISA.
Im not going to go through each particular product and say what should be included, you are all intelligent enough to work that out but there are a few pointers that can help make the difference between a VU rated review and one that gets nominated for a crown.
If you are reviewing a bank account as well as reviewing the facilities offered I would want to know about how easy the account is to open and if you are switching the account from another provider whether the new company offers a transfer service and how efficient that service is. A bank account is the one with which you are likely to have the most contact with the bank so ease of contact particularly by phone and internet are important as well as the size of its branch operation and the level of service that you receive using each of these.
If you are reviewing an insurance product for me a product review is far more complete if you have gone through the claims process of the company as again that is far likely to influence my buying decision. Now obviously this is not possible in all cases and a review can still add value if you have experienced some level of service on the product since opening it such as having to change the details on the product or add extra cover.
For a mortgage review it is again like a bank account all about personal experience and the ability of the loan arranger to provide a fast efficient, personalised service which gets things right first time, something that in my experience most mortgage providers struggle to do. With a mortgage there is likely to be a need to change things over the term of the loan or add additional borrowing and your experience of this will be of interest. Also one of the areas that is very relevant is how you are treated when your latest mortgage interest rate deal comes to an end and the sort of deal you are offered and whether the provider is proactive or reactive in its approach.
With all reviews when commenting on service it is so people dependant that it is quite reasonable to expect that you could visit three branches of the same bank with the same enquiry and get three very different customer experiences. I know this can be the case from the days when I used to analyse the Mystery Shopper reports for the branches I managed. However often what you can spot are those staff behaviours that are part of the culture of the company, for example if I phone up First Direct on the 30th March I know that the first person I speak to will wish me Happy Birthday because the system prompts them to do it. I also know that I will speak to that person without having to press any buttons except the banks phone number because that is part of the service culture of First Direct and one of the main reasons why Im with them. It is these sorts of service features that I like to read about and how a company responds when they get something wrong.
Finally and this is quite a personal opinion but for me Dooyoo is a hobby not a career and I spend time on the site because I enjoy it so a good review in the Banking and Finance category for me has to have some sort of either educational or entertainment value to make it worth my while reading it. A bit of humour is never wasted even in the dry world of finance and can make all the difference to how interesting a review is to read.
In summary the basis to writing a good review in this category is no different to any other category really, good structure and lots of personal opinion and experience. Do consider what is unique about the product or service that would make someone want to switch to the product and dont forget the important element of customer service.
If you have any questions on the category, encounter any general problems with the site or just want to leave a comment on how much of a God Arsene Wenger is for signing that hotel chef onto the Highbury staff then leave a comment in my Tooyoo guestbook the link to which is on my homepage.
Thanks for reading and rating my review and I look forward to reading your reviews in the Banking and Finance Category it is by far the best category on Dooyoo with the best looking guide.
One additional thing I would like to add after seeing a few review written recently following this review being posted. Do remember to bring your own individual style to the review. In writing this review I never intended it to be a blue print for how to write a review in the Banking and Finance category just my opinion on "SOME" of the things you may want to cover.
While it is nice to see reviews with headings covering all the points I have made, at least I know you have read this review, it was not the intention to create a load of clones in the category, originality is something to be encouraged and makes for a far more enjoyable and often informative read.
This is not a criticism of any recent review just an observation following a period of reflection on a comment left in my Tooyoo book.
Or...erm..maybe not. Oh well, I've decided to write this one in conjunction with my ouija board in an effort to contact the remaining Dooyoo readership. If anyone missed it (very likely with the guide pictures and roles being well out of date), I've been the guidester for banking & finance for a few weeks now. In that time I've recommended, on average, 1 opinion a week to be crowned. You could be forgiven for thinking that I'm a harsh guide (grrrrrrrr) but you'd be wrong. My main problem is the very low number of opinions posted so when you've only got, say, 5 to begin with then getting lots crowned is pretty difficult! What to write about ------------------------- So how do you come by these elusive crowns (assuming folks still care)? Well, first things first and we all know that banking is one of the driest subjects on the planet. Generally, folks aren't that interested which is kind of ironic seeing as it's the most commonly cited reason for people breaking up and generally at the hub of most things. There are moves afoot (and in motion) to teach kids as part of the curriculum about financial basics which is a huge step in the right direction. Some of us get quite excited about personal finance (rubdowns with the Financial Times) but I wouldn't expect too many to feel the same way. There is a whole vista of subjects you can write about. Most people will have an opinion on bank accounts; there is a whole world of big bad banks and building societies out there; everybody experiences service ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous (a phrase I always remember one of my teachers using) so, if you stop and think, there is something you can write about. The better opinions will have all the basics in place. You know, clear structure i.e. a beginning, middle and end. You'll be looking for a suitable title (one suggestion seems to be to add the title at the end but I wouldn't necessaril
y agree as I sometimes think of something before I start writing). Of course, we could be veering off into how to write a good review in general so I'll be brief but don't forget to try and get a big opening and a big finish (as though you're doing a presentation) and include personal experiences as it makes your piece so much easier to read. So what can you write about? Well, there are basic accounts. For example, yer basic bank account in which case talk about the features and benefits, what turns you on and what doesn't. What rate is it paying? What are the things thrown into the package? What do you think about the provider (i.e. the bank/building society etc)? Hey, what about mortgages? Most folks will take out a mortgage at some point (unless you're a lotto winner or samfink) so it pays to shop around. A mortgage is the biggest commitment that most people ever take on so getting the right one can save thousands! Again ~ most normal sorts will hardly accept the first mortgage thrown in their general direction as they'll be considering such weighty matters as interest rate payable resulting in monthly payment, mortgage product i.e. is it a fixed/capped/discount rate etc? What sort of tie-ins are involved and are you likely to have to wait weeks from your mortgage provider because they offer the kind of service usually reserved for people making a claim on their *E111? (man...I've been waiting weeks already after forking out 35 Euros in France this year). A lot of people will have experience of life policies of some description. I mean, there are soooo many. For instance, basic life policies paying out on death only, policies with an investment element, policies spanning the whole of your life. This particular market has never been more competitive with the online providers coming into their own so let's here all about them. Usual factors apply - cost, cover, terms and conditions and so on with the all-im
portant personal experience. There are some general categories you can have some real fun with. General savings tips can encompass just about anything whilst you can post about general financial advice - from birth to death although I think that this has been moved to speakers corner now. Financial Resources --------------------------- There is a mass of resources at most folks' fingertips that will help on the old personal finance front. Most newspapers carry some sort of financial section (think, Sun Money?), my personal favourite being The Times either on a Saturday or Sunday. However, there is a plethora of online sites (www.moneyxtra.com etc), both Ceefax and Teletext have financial sections (pages 200 and 490 onwards on BBC2 & Channel 4 respectively) whilst you'll always find someone only too willing to give you their view of the latest financial crisis even if it is usually biased and inaccurate. Don't forget the financial institution themselves, as that's what they are there for, after all. Personal View ------------------- I can't speak for all the guides but my personal preference is for folks to write with a bit of humour. Not that I'll discriminate against those that don't but life really is too short so it helps to have a bit of a laugh in the short span allotted to us. If you can include the odd funny story then by all means do so (audience's eyes glaze over at the thought of personal finance being funny). OK ~ there are a few pointers and I hope a few more folks decide to have a dabble. I honestly hope things pick up anytime now on the site and, whilst going off at a tangent, then I've included an observation below that I'll probably get tied to a tree, covered in barbeque sauce and fed to Mr Chuckle's llama because of it but I'm including it anyway 'cos I live life on the edge, know what I mean? If you are a current writer/r
eader on the site then the problem of read backs seems to be an annoying one. Whilst it's a subject matter in it's own right, the issue is exacerbated right now due to the flagging up of blank profiles when people wanna read back. I honestly hope that this can be fixed shortly and I've raised it with Dooyoo but for anyone interested I've included the steps below to allow you to call up a profile with a full set of opinions: 1. Select the user profile you want. 2. Have a look at the address bar of your browser. You should have a drop-down option to the right. Select and press return. 3. At the end of the URL there will be a bit like: &usrID=68060&opt=S&offset=1 4.Take out the S, just delete it from the URL, then press enter. 5. You should now have a profile full of ops. Sooooo...awwwww...go on, go on, go on, go on, go on and write in my category.... pleeeeeeeeease (sounding really needy now). You'll make an old banker very happy (or words to that effect). Thanks for **Reading (it's a very nice place) Marandina (still in the game?) *E111 is the form that allows you to claim for basic medical care when you holiday in those countries that subscribe to the agreement e.g. most of the European Union. **Just lurve that gag Be a love and just give me a few minutes to edit the question marks out and all that :O).
Don't worry I'm not going to go through all the basics about how to write a good opinion. There's some excellent advice on the site about how to do that - just have a look at 'Home > Internet > Information > Reference > dooyoo.co.uk > Tips on writing good opinions' or follow the link from the 'Advice' section on the left-hand side of your profile page. What I'd like to talk about is how to write a good Banking & Finance opinion. You're probably thinking 'Oh, yes, but that's just your view of what makes a good opinion? and that's true because you might write something totally different that everybody, me included, thinks is the best thing since freshly-baked bread with unsalted butter. Dooyoo will crown it and then you can come here and write an opinion that puts this one into the shade. I'd be delighted, really I would! There's quite a lot in Banking and Finance - pop in sometime and have a look around. There's all the usual Banks, Building Societies and credit card providers. You can find out about mortgages or even if you'd be better off renting rather than buying. If you've got money left over at the end of the month rather than the other way round there's all sorts of advice on how to invest it. For those with debt problems there's help and if you're looking for insurance for yourself, the car, the cat or the trip to Kathmandu then this is the place to look. Finally we even venture into the pension minefield. Let's start with opinions about the Banks and Building Societies. It's generally a good thing if you've got personal experience before you write an opinion. I sense some hackles rising here. "Only generally?" I can hear you saying. Well, yes. There are occasions when you might have considered opening a particular account or using a particular Bank but examination of the Terms and Conditions persuaded you not to. That's
the sort of thing we want to know, but it needs to be backed up with facts and reasoning. I can't imagine any circumstances in which I would advise someone to open a National Savings Ordinary Account and I can back this up with facts and figures. On the other hand I'm not going to be impressed by an opinion that's based on someone's sister's boyfriend's experience with Barclays Bank. Banks and Building Societies are staffed by people, so sometimes mistakes are going to be made. Sometimes you get the feeling that they're all being directed at you. I've read opinions based on these experiences and I believe them simply because I once went through something similar. However, if this was how a Bank treated all its customers they would not be a Bank for very long so it's fair to assume that your experience is not commonplace. If you're going to write about a Bank there needs to be some balance so if your opinion is based on one or two incidents I'm afraid you're going to collect the odd 'Somewhat Useful'. If you really do want to have a rant about what's happened then post under 'Banks! Aarrrggghhhh!' where you'll get all the sympathy you so richly deserve. Most, if not all, of the Banks have on-line access and for many of them you can chose to write an opinion purely about the online operation. It's pleasant to know that a site is easy on the eye, but I don't really need to be told that HSBC's site is done in fetching shades of grey and red. I'd find that out when I went there, unless I was colour blind, in which case the information would be superfluous. Such information always leaves me with the feeling that the writer is trying to cover every possible angle and those opinions never make easy reading. I do want to know about the site's security (How many passwords do you have to remember? What other hoops do you have to jump through? Tell us if y
ou think there's a problem with the security) and the navigation (for months HSBC had a rather peculiar link to get into personal internet banking. I thought it was part of the site's security. It seems now that it was just poor design). I want to know what you can do on the site and, probably more importantly, what you can't do. Is there a financial limit on transactions? Have there been many occasions when you couldn't access the site? What's the service like when you have to resort to the telephone? Does internet banking make life easier or more difficult? I don't need to know the sort of facts that I can find out with a quick visit. I want to know what it's like when you actually use the site. ?Opinion?, that's the important word. Give facts and information by all means, but what people want to know is what you thought about it, how it felt. Let's have a look at credit cards now. Have you noticed how many offers there are associated with them at the moment? It's been going on for quite a while and it applies to a lesser extent to other financial products as well ('Interest-free balance transfers', 'Open an account and get 1500 Clubcard points'). It's good to know about these offers, but if your opinion is based on the fact that you can get a free weekend away provided that you apply by this Friday then the opinion is of limited usefulness now and by Saturday should be collecting Not Usefuls if the rating system is working properly. It's good to know that there are offers available but it should be in the context of an opinion about the product as a whole. 'When I applied I got a free bottle of wine' remains current and useful. 'Apply by Friday for a free gift' has passed its sell-by date by Saturday. Tell us about interest rates too, but do it in the context of how they compare to rates on offer from other card providers: 'this provider charges x% at th
e moment which is a bit above the market average but you get points towards a free gift'. I know that credit cards tempt people to get into debt, but that really isn't the fault of the credit card provider. It's down to the person who's spent the money. Equally if the Terms and Conditions of a particular card say that you will be charged if you make a payment after the date on which it's due then it doesn't seem unreasonable to me that a charge is made even if you're only a couple of days late. By all means warn people that the Terms and Conditions of a particular account impose hefty penalties for late payment or that a particular provider has a habit of upping the credit limit without asking if that's what you'd like, but an opinion based on how your credit card was responsible for getting you into debt or charged you for not paying them is going to seem less than balanced Mortgages are another area where there's a temptation to tell everyone about the current best mortgage to beat all other mortgages and if this is all the opinion is about it's going to be out of date as soon as the Bank or Building Society withdraws the offer, as they all have to do sooner or later. What people want to know when they're thinking about making an application for a mortgage is how long it took to get through the application and acceptance process, what snags you encountered along the way and what the service has been like since you've had the mortgage. By all means mention that you got a very good discounted rate or that you got tied in to an awful fixed rate deal, but make it part of the wider picture. Give us the facts, relate it to your own personal experience and tell us what you thought about it. I'll deal with investments and pensions together as the same points apply to both. If I write an opinion on a book or a bottle of wine and I've not quite got it right - I haven't mentio
ned the violence, or I forgot to mention the cough-medicine taste, then I might have cost you a tenner. You'll never read what I have to say again unless it's to torment me in the comments thread and ultimately I'll be the loser. If I write about an investment and forget to mention that there's a risk associated with Zero-Based Preference Shares and you could lose all your money or that shares can go down and then sink a bit further then the cost to you might be a lot more than a tenner. Nobody has yet found the perfect investment or the perfect pension scheme. They all have their upsides and their downsides and just because the downside doesn't seem terribly important to you it might be very relevant to someone else. As an example it's not unreasonable for a young person with a high disposable income and no dependants to invest a lot of money in high-risk shares. It would be the height of folly for someone approaching pension age to do the same with his life savings. So, when you're writing an opinion about an investment you need to make the downside just as clear as the benefits. You've got to say who the investment would be suitable for and who should avoid it like the plague. You need the facts and you need an opinion about the facts. There's a wonderful section in Banking & Finance called 'Members Advice' where you can get help on all sorts of matters. If you're moving house pop in and have a look - there's opinions there that could save you a lot of time and money. If you've got problems with debt there's advice there that could save your sanity. The members who've been writing about moving house have actually moved house and the best opinions give the benefit of their experiences but they're not a litany of what went wrong when the removal van failed to turn up. The best opinions about debt are the ones which go beyond personal experiences and give practical advice on ho
w to deal with the problem. It's always interesting to read about people's personal experiences - we're an inquisitive lot - but it's only going to constitute advice if someone has found themselves in exactly the same circumstances, which is unlikely. When someone has a problem they need to know how they can deal with it ? not that someone else's problem was just as bad or worse. Insurance is quite simple to write about. Whatever the type of insurance you are paying a premium in the expectation of financial recompense if certain events occur. So, in any opinion about insurance I'd expect to know what was covered. I've read opinions about motor insurance which quoted a premium but didn't tell me whether it was fully comprehensive or not. I'd expect to know about excesses. I'd want to know what period it covered - some motor insurers are offering insurance at a good rate, but it isn't until later that you discover that the policy only covers a ten-month period. Tell us, too, what's covered and more importantly, what isn't covered. With animal insurance some insurers will only pay for an illness in one year. After that it's excluded. It's important to know something like that. The service you receive from an Insurer is important too; some are particularly good when they're selling you the policy, but not quite so good when you're captive and that's the sort of thing you can't find out from reading the glossy brochure. Do come and have a look around Banking and Finance. There are lots of categories with few or even no opinions and lots of people with opinions to share. Come and give it a go. As the Category Guide there are times when I'm rather underemployed!