BOSTON – A study found 41% of customers are satisfied overall with their primary banking institution, an increase from last year’s average of 37%.

The findings by ath Power Consulting, a financial services research and strategy firm, included at statement that credit unions “continue to achieve much higher satisfaction and advocacy rates” compared to large regional and national banks.

In its 2012 ath Power Ideal Banking Study, the firm said it found higher satisfaction levels in areas related to banker behavior and general quality of customer service. Although the nation’s largest banks still trail smaller banks and credit unions in the customer service category, they showed a “respectable increase” in satisfaction in 2012. Among the Top-4 U.S. banks, Chase made the most significant year-over-year climb with a 14-point increase.

“Over the past few years, financial institutions have been driven to become more customer-centric in an effort to retain current customers and attract new prospects – a response to a tougher regulatory environment and added competition from non-traditional sources,” said Frank Aloi, ath Power CEO. “Our research indicates that these initiatives are beginning to pay off. Even so, there are still numerous areas that show need for improvement, including proactive communication with customers and problem resolution.”

While customer experience factors recurrently differentiate highly satisfied and loyal customers, convenience factors are often the initial reason for choosing a bank, according to ath Power’s ongoing research. Despite recent shifts by many banks to eliminate it, free checking, along with online banking and direct deposit, are “universally desired” as primary banking needs.

Similarly, mobile banking is rapidly moving toward essential product status with current adoption at 36%, up from 21% in 2011.

The ath Power Ideal Banking Study [] also examined the consumer likelihood to switch banks. In the past year, 10% of customers changed their primary banking institution. Top reasons for switching include new/raised fees, dissatisfaction with customer service, home relocation and account errors.

Customers of Top-20 banks are three times more likely to switch to another financial institution than credit union members. The greatest influencing factors customers indicate might provoke them to switch are loyalty/rewards programs, reduced fees on checking accounts and special offers to join.


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