Consumers More Satisfied With Banks, Survey Finds


NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Banks haven’t had the greatest reputation with the American public over the past few years. In fact, a cynic might put banks down there with broccoli and root canal among the least favorite consumer categories.

But the gloom might just be lifting for financial institutions, if one new study has the data right.

The 2011 Prime Performance 2011 Bank and Credit Union Satisfaction Survey is out this month, and it shows rising levels of satisfaction with bank performance among American consumers. The study measured the customer satisfaction levels of 8,000 participants, and was conducted in August and September 2011.

Credit unions continue to be more popular than banks, with Denver-based Prime Performance reporting a net consumer satisfaction rating of 89% (out of 100%). Banks with less than 300 branches ranked second – at 88%.

Large banks, categorized as banks with between 300 and 4,000 branches, broke out at 80%, according to the study.

Overall, the industry average rounded out at 82%, Prime Performance reported.

In a Dec. 5 blog post on the Prime Performance website, company president Jim Miller says the net satisfaction score was up 5% from 2010, but even with that uptick, banks still have a long way to go before they regain customer trust.

“While satisfaction is on the rise, the survey also showed that some banks, particularly the mega-banks, have not completely won back the loyalty of their customers,” he says. “Many consumers at big banks believe their bankers may put institutional interests ahead of customers’, have concerns about fees and are not ready to refer friends and family to do business with them.”

Some larger banks found themselves looking up at the average consumer satisfaction rating. The study pegs Bank of America (Stock Quote: BAC) at 73%, Wells Fargo (Stock Quote: WFC) at 75%, and JPMorgan Chase (Stock Quote: JPM) at 78%.

Study participants did demonstrate slightly lower levels of on-site or over-the-phone satisfaction with financial institutions. The survey showed a 5% decline in bank customer service reps using the consumer’s name, and a 3% drop in getting a “thank you” from a customer service rep.

Here are some other key takeaways from the Prime Performance study:

  • Chase had the greatest increase in satisfaction overall and among generation Y, baby boomers and pre-baby boomers. Chase also showed the greatest improvement in the “likely to recommend” and “likely to switch” categories. In spite of the improvement, Chase remains below the industry average in these categories.
  • Customers believe credit unions have the most competitive fees.
  • Credit union and small bank customers are the least likely to experience problems or complaints, and the most occur at Bank of America.
  • Customers at small banks and credit unions are more apt to believe employees enjoy their jobs than customers at big banks and mega-banks.
  • Bank of America customers are the youngest, with an average age of 41.2 years (excluding minors). Small banks serve the oldest customer base, with an average age of 47.1 years.

While the study showed marked improvement for banks, there is still a long way to go before banks fully regain the confidence of an anxious, if not angry public. But at least after three years of bad publicity, banks finally have something to hang their hats on.

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