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Customers more satisfied with smaller banks

Staff writer |
About 10% to 20% of customers switch banks each year to the benefit of smaller banks: ACSI survey for December shows that smaller banks have higher customer satisfaction than big banks and attract more customers.

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American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) shows that credit unions continue to expand and reached record-high membership over the past year. Sustomers are rejecting the mounting fees charged by large banks and taking their money to credit unions which typically charge less. In 2011, the total fees from overdraft charges alone amounted to more than $30 billion.

Sustomer satisfaction with banks gains 2.7% to 77 and the improvement is mostly the result of continued high customer satisfaction with smaller banks (stable ACSI score of 79) which have gained market share. The other factor is a large 6% increase in customer satisfaction for JPMorgan Chase that leads big banks with a score of 74, but still trails the small banks which tend to offer more personalized service, free checking, and lower fees.Smaller banks have higher customer satisfaction than big banks and attract more customers. As a result, overall customer satisfaction with the banking industry goes up.

The other big banks are well below JPMorgan Chase for customer satisfaction and show declining ACSI scores. Wells Fargo dips 3% to a score of 71, Citigroup is down 4% to 70, Bank of America is down 3% to 66, its lowest level in more than a decade. Bank of America is the only large bank that remains below its prerecession customer satisfaction level this year.

Like small banks, credit unions offer more personalized service and fewer fees. This year, however, an influx of new clients causes credit unions to retreat from their past lofty standards for customer service. Customer satisfaction with credit unions falls 5.7% to an ACSI score of 82, which still surpasses the overall score for banks at 77.

Although customer satisfaction with credit unions declines by a significant amount, the industry remains best-in-class for financial services and displays the top customer satisfaction benchmark among all service categories covered in the ACSI. Credit unions continue to do better than small banks in customer satisfaction, while outperforming all of the big banks by a wide margin.

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