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Bank Customer Satisfaction Up, But Not for Mega-Banks

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Since the end of the recession, many Americans have chosen to reevaluate the way in which they deal with financial institutions, and these days, it seems some are growing more enamored of their banks.

Consumer satisfaction with banks’ checking, savings and loan products rose 2.7 percent this year, though much of that increase was driven by improvements for smaller community institutions, according to the latest American Customer Satisfaction Survey. The biggest reason for that increase is that rising fees for traditional banking services at larger institutions that were previously free forced many consumers to move to smaller competitors unburdened by heavier federal regulation. As such, many grew happier with their banking situation.

“As more customers move from large banks to smaller banks and credit unions, the overall customer satisfaction level for banks goes up as a matter of mathematics,” said Claes Fornell, ACSI founder and author of a book on how businesses can have more satisfied customers. “As the smaller banks do a better job with customers and therefore attract more of them, customer satisfaction for banks on the whole gets a boost.”

For instance, larger banks continued charging customers massive overdraft fees for making missteps with their accounts, and those levies alone cost Americans some $30 billion, the report said. That isn’t even counting the other ways in which banks generate revenues through higher fees.

However, not all big banks were subject to a decline in satisfaction, the report said. JPMorgan Chase saw its overall satisfaction index rate climb 6 percent to a score of 74, the same level it enjoyed prior to the onset of the recent national recession. Its competitors, though, mostly saw declines. Wells Fargo dipped 3 percent to 71, Citi fell 4 percent to 70, and Bank of America slipped 3 percent to 66, the lowest rate seen in the last decade. In fact, Bank of America is now the only major bank with a satisfaction rating below where it was prior to the recession.

Higher costs for borrowing and use of traditional banking services may weigh heavily on consumers’ minds, even as the economic recovery continues to put them in better personal financial positions. That improvement already led many to start leaning on credit cards and other types of financing more heavily in the last several months.

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