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Banks top credit unions in customer satisfaction, survey finds

Credit unions have for years exceeded banks in customer satisfaction — until now. Banks' investments in high-tech services seem to have turned the tide.

For the first time since the American Customer Satisfaction Index began studying credit unions in 2008, banks earned a higher overall score, according to the 2019 results issued this week. Even the scandal-ridden Wells Fargo has begun to bounce back from the many reputation hits it has taken in recent years, the results showed.

Big banks’ technology advantage is starting to outweigh other customer satisfaction metrics, officials at the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based ACSI said. The index has tracked consumers’ impressions of banks since 1995.

“Customers want mobile options, and big banks have the resources to deliver,” Managing Director David VanAmburg said in a press release. “As technology improves, so does customer satisfaction. The personalized service that’s the hallmark of smaller banks and credit unions may no longer be as critical to customers, especially a younger demographic.”

Overall satisfaction declined from 2018 for both banks and credit unions, but the slip was slightly greater for credit unions. Both earned a score of 81 out of 100 last year, but banks dropped one point to 80 this year, while credit unions’ score fell to 79.

Credit unions earned high marks for the courtesy and helpfulness of their staff, but their score in that category declined to 87 from 89 a year ago. Members’ satisfaction with call centers dropped four points to 80, and satisfaction with transaction speed in branches fell three points to 85. Members also said they were less satisfied with credit unions’ websites (a score of 86, down two points) and the quality of mobile apps (an 83, also down two points.)

Banks saw year-over-year declines in some of those same categories, but they lost fewer points than credit unions did. For example, customer satisfaction with branch staff fell one point to 87 and satisfaction with banks’ websites and mobile apps fell one point to scores of 85.

When customers were asked about the competitiveness of interest rates, banks actually gained a point to 75; credit unions’ score fell 3 points to 74.
Regional and community banks maintained a lead over superregional banks and national banks, with a score of 83 compared with 78 for each of the larger categories of banks. All of those banks experienced slight yearly declines, however.

Citibank, with an 81, earned the highest satisfaction score among nationwide banks. But while Wells Fargo still ranked the lowest among the biggest banks, it saw its first improvement in the three years since its phony-accounts scandal broke. The San Francisco bank had a score of 76, two points higher than in 2018.

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