Consumers to Big Banks: We “Like” You Again

Survey says: Thumbs up! J.D. Power and Associates recently released its 8th annual U.S. Retail Banking Satisfaction Study,SM and the results show significant improvements in customer satisfaction. That has to be welcome news for banks, which last year got hammered on satisfaction scores, particularly over the rollout of monthly maintenance fees.

After several years of fairly minor increases in overall scores, customer satisfaction this year increased by 10 index points in the most recent survey, compared to last year (from 753 in 2012 to 763 this year on a 1,000-point scale).

Somewhat surprisingly, the largest increase in satisfaction scores was seen in the “big bank” segment (think Citi, Chase, Bank of America), which improved 16 points in 2013. Typically, the big bank segment has lagged behind smaller banks in customer satisfaction by a decent margin. This year that gap closed. Why?

According to Jim Miller – Sr. Director of Banking Services at J.D. Power and Associates, that gap closed due to two primary reasons: Big banks not only ramped up their phone and branch customer service efforts and problem resolution, but they offered customers easier ways of doing their banking thanks to mobile and online banking, including remote check deposit, which customers are flocking to.

Moreover, consumer attitudes towards big banks appear to be shifting. Consumers generally used to regard big banks as offering better convenience, while smaller banks offered better service.

Now, research trends tracked by J.D. Power suggest service at big banks is getting better thanks to extended branch hours, more locations, more services and broader technology offerings.

Yet, according to Miller, there still is a consumer segment which values services provided at smaller, “in my community” banks. To stay competitive, Miller says smaller banks will have to leverage technology so big banks won’t be the only ones offering the latest in tech advantages for online and mobile banking, and far-reaching ATM networks.

The ongoing banking research measures satisfaction among banks in 11 regions, focusing on six dimensions: account information; channel activities; facility; fees; problem resolution; and product offerings.

The 2013 study (fielded in January and February) is based on responses from close to 52,000 retail banking customers from more than 120 of the largest U.S. banks.

Given the turmoil seen in our banking arena during the past couple of years, this upward trend in overall satisfaction must be very welcome news to bank executives and front-line staff.

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