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Timeless Values Back In Fashion

Core Facts

  • Nearly one quarter of people (24 per cent) think that common courtesy is important
  • Nine out of ten people claim everyday gestures make them smile
  • One in five say a chat with a stranger makes them happy
  • 30 per cent of Britons have given up their place in a queue for someone else

Despite the economic downturn and the widely held perception that manners and courtesy have declined, Britain seems to be seeing a renewed appreciation for courtesy and consideration.  A new poll has revealed that nine out of ten adults believe it’s common, everyday niceties such as a compliment or being given a seat that make us happy.

The research by first direct, the UK’s number one bank for customer satisfaction*, surveyed more than 2,000 consumers to find the behaviour we value the most and how often we practice common courtesy ourselves.  It found that it’s the everyday gestures that can have a lasting impression on us and that the current economic climate is having a big effect with nearly a quarter of people (24 per cent) saying that common courtesies are now really important.

The poll also revealed that 70 per cent of women, compared to 54 per cent of men, say they’re fed up with the current doom and gloom and 67 per cent of Britons believe that now, it’s the timeless values of respect and honesty that should be making a comeback.

What gestures make people smile

  • While receiving a compliment came out top, the research found that one in five Britons believe that sharing a joke or chat with a stranger makes them feel happy. 
  • For a fifth of us, being on the receiving end of great customer service, can really make our day and put a spring in our step.     
  • Although three quarters of people felt that common courtesies have declined, first direct’s research reveals we’re a courteous bunch, with only two per cent admitting they have too much on their mind to worry about other people’s feelings and only eight per cent forgetting to sometimes say please and thank you. 
  • Over 40 per cent use new technology such as Facebook and Twitter to thank people as opposed to a traditional card, and over one in five said new technology made it easier to be considerate to others.   

first direct's top five - what makes us happy the most

1. Receiving a compliment(29 per cent),
2. Sharing a chat with a stranger (21 per cent)
3. Receiving great customer service (19 per cent)
4. Someone remembering a special day (14 per cent)
5. Receiving flowers (eight per cent)

The poll revealed a North-South divide when it comes to queues and seats.  Londoners are more likely to give up their seats (32 per cent) than those in the North (21 per cent) but the North scores more highly on giving up their place in a queue (35 per cent compared to just 24 per cent of those in London).

One in twenty men never send thank you messages.


Dr Gary Wood, social psychologist and author comments:  “There's great power to be found in the fine detail. Good manners and social courtesy cost nothing and can have a profound effect on other people. We can literally 'make someone's day' and help to reduce their stress by paying attention to these little things, which then has a knock on effect in our own lives. A smile or a kind word can actually set us up for the day, making it more likely that we focus on the good things rather than the doom and gloom.”

Lisa Wood, head of marketing at first direct added:  “The idea for this survey came from our current TV ad where we show old clips of service from the 1950s.  We know from our own customers that it’s the little things that make their banking experience with us special and this is reflected in our TV ads.  So we wanted to see how far these values are held across Britain.  The good news is it seems that we’re embracing common courtesy, most of us appreciate it and most of us practise it, so it’s good to see that Britons still value respect and honesty and remain considerate to others.”

Boilerplate Statements

Social Psychologist and author Dr Gary Wood and Lisa Wood of first direct will be taking part in a live webchat on Wednesday 22nd April at 2:30pm to discuss the psychology and importance of courtesy and manners.

first direct's current TV ads highlight its success as the UK's number one bank in the 2009 UK Customer Satisfaction Index.  Featuring a series of black and white archived footage, the ads introduce a return to the timeless values of respect, trust and service whilst retaining first direct's ‘black and white' credentials with the new strapline ‘Banking’s better in black & white’.