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CUs do it right (again) in satisfaction survey

BOSTON (12/19/12)--U.S. credit unions continue to achieve much higher satisfaction and advocacy rates compared to large regional and national banks, according to results announced Tuesday of the 2012 ath Power Ideal Banking Study, which assesses the retail member/customer experience at credit unions and banks nationwide.
ath Power Consulting, a Boston-based financial services research and strategy firm, is a provider of member/customer experience solutions for the financial services industry.
Findings from the annual study indicate that 41% of members/customers surveyed are satisfied overall with their primary banking institution, a rise from last year's 37%. For the third consecutive year, USAA ranked highest in overall satisfaction.
The study revealed higher satisfaction levels in areas related to bank behavior and general quality of customer service. Although the biggest U.S. banks still trail smaller banks and credit unions in the customer service category, they increased in satisfaction in 2012. Among the top-four 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 differentiate highly satisfied and loyal customers, convenience factors are often the initial reason for choosing a financial institution, 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 study also examines 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 are. The greatest factors customers say provoke them to switch are loyalty/rewards programs, reduced fees on checking accounts and special offers to join, the study said.
Credit unions also scored high in other national and local surveys on trust, loyalty and member satisfaction studies this year. They include:
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