Free ATMs, open late, no fees and more…
Are you frustrated with your bank? Bottom Line/Personal asked J.D. Power and Associates consumer research executives Jeff Taylor and Rockwell Clancy to identify the factors that have the biggest effect on customer satisfaction, as well as the banks and savings-and-loan associations that do the best job of meeting customers’ expectations…
The longer that customers must wait to speak with a teller, the less satisfied they tend to be with the institution. Line length is the single best predictor of customer satisfaction.
Banks that tend to have short wait times include…
Important: Wait times can vary dramatically from branch to branch, even within the same bank chain. Before opening an account with any bank, drop by the branches that you are most likely to visit at the times of day that you are most likely to visit them and observe the length and speed of the lines.
NIGHT AND WEEKEND HOURS
In addition to convenient locations, customers are much more likely to express satisfaction with banks that are open late into the evening and/or have extensive weekend hours. Examples…
Access to conveniently located fee-free automatic teller machines (ATMs) is an important factor affecting customer satisfaction. Some banks have expanded their ATM networks by placing ATMs in stores.
Also, some regional banks have agreements with other bank chains to allow shared access to ATMs… and a few small banks even agree to cover any foreign ATM fees that its customers incur.
Banks that score well for ATM convenience include…
Many bank customers now use the Internet to perform basic banking transactions, such as checking their balances.
Some banks, including Citibank, even provide cell-phone text-message alerts — for example, when an account balance falls below a certain level. Customers who take advantage of these high-tech services typically report higher levels of satisfaction.
Banks that score well in on-line satisfaction include…
Important: Consider bank branch locations and hours even if you intend to do your banking on-line. Bank customers who use the on-line banking services of their traditional brick-and-mortar banks actually tend to visit bank branches in person more, not less, than other bank customers, probably because these customers tend to be more financially active than most.
Most customers grudgingly accept fees that result from their own actions, such as for bouncing a check, even if they often think that these fees are too high. What really makes bank customers angry is when fees are imposed even though they have not taken a specific action to trigger them, especially if this “inaction” broke a rule that the customer was not even aware of.
These fees include account maintenance fees imposed because an account balance has drifted below some minimum balance and account inactivity fees imposed because the account has not been used recently.
Ask about such fees before signing up for an account. If you suspect that you eventually will run afoul of these rules, it probably would be wise to select a different kind of account or a different bank with a more forgiving fee structure.
“Free” check warning: Do not assume that “free” checking is truly free. Such accounts tend to be laden with hidden fees, such as fees for use of the debit card that comes with the account or monthly fees that appear if a direct-deposit arrangement ends.
Banks whose customers are most satisfied with fee policies include…
Bank customers usually are willing to forgive a bank for occasional disputes — if the bank seems willing to work with them to find a solution.
Banks that generally do a relatively good job of resolving problems to customers’ satisfaction include Bank of America… Citibank… and Washington Mutual.
*TD Banknorth and Commerce Bank (Bancorp) recently merged. The effect of this merger upon their standings in the bank satisfaction scores is not yet apparent.