Good News, Bad News in Annual Banking Satisfaction Survey

J.D. Power and Associates just released its 7th annual U.S. Retail Banking Satisfaction Study, and the headlines show a mixed-bag of good news/bad news:  While consumers are still very dissatisfied with fees, banks generally are offsetting that by reducing the number of problems experienced and making improvements in problem resolution.

For this ongoing study, customer satisfaction is measured using six factors: account activities, account information, facility, fees, problem resolution and product offerings.  The 2012 study (fielded in January and February) is based on responses from more than 50,000 retail banking customers.

One clear theme: Satisfaction with fees took another hit in the most recent survey. This index declined to 609, down significantly from 625 in 2011 and from 656 in 2010. Monthly maintenance fees have the most significant negative impact on fees satisfaction this year, according to the findings.

On the flip side, survey findings show banks have been able to offset the negative impact on customer satisfaction in other areas, such as facilities, routine transactions and technology (including envelope-free deposits and images at ATMs).  Customer satisfaction with bank facilities (branch and ATM locations, appearance and hours of operation) improved this year to an index of 779, compared with 771 in 2011 and 765 in 2010.

Overall, when the proverbial scales tip back and forth and finally settle, retail banking customer satisfaction improved by just one (not a typo) index point in 2012 to an average of 753 (on a 1,000-point scale) from 2011.

Yet, given the turmoil seen in the banking arena last year, even a one-point move in a positive direction could be welcome news to bank executives.

At the same time, study findings suggest that helping customers understand the rationale and value for the dollars they pay in fees and maintenance charges, counterintuitive as it sounds, can play a role in the customer experience and overall satisfaction.

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