Survey: Consumers Less Disgusted with Banks Lately

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After sliding steadily for years, bank customer satisfaction sentiment has improved slightly, according to the most recent survey. But while overall satisfaction is up, bank customers are as upset about fees as they’ve ever been.

J.D. Power & Associates just released its 2011 U.S. Retail Banking Satisfaction Study, and for the first time since 2007 customers don’t feel worse about banks than they did the year before. The survey shows that:

Satisfaction with most factors of the retail banking experience—account information; facility; problem resolution; and product offerings—has improved from 2010, while satisfaction with account activities has remained stable. In particular, satisfaction with in-person branch interaction, product offerings and account information have all improved significantly.

At the same time, customers have grown increasingly unhappy about bank fees. Not necessarily because they’re paying more fees—which, interestingly enough, they’re not, but because how and when fees are assessed has changed, leaving customers confused and, apparently, not-quite-satisfied:

Satisfaction with fees, however, has decreased considerably from 2010, even though the proportion of customers who report they were charged fees by their bank has declined from 53 percent in 2010 to 43 percent in 2011. The primary driver of the decline in fee satisfaction has been changes in how fees are assessed, with 18 percent of customers in 2011 saying their fee structure had changed during the past 12 months, compared with 16 percent in 2010. When fee structures are changed, overall satisfaction decreases by an average of 84 index points.

Seems like fees are OK, then, so long as a customer knows how, when, and why they’re doled out. It’s when fees shift or sneak up on unsuspecting customers that gets everybody in an uproar.

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