Bank Watch

Bank of America still lags peers on customer service poll

Pedestrians pass in front of a Bank of America branch in New York on July 13, 2016.
Pedestrians pass in front of a Bank of America branch in New York on July 13, 2016. Bloomberg

Bank of America’s customer satisfaction score improved in an annual survey of U.S. banks, but the Charlotte-based company remains at the bottom among its biggest competitors, according to the latest report by the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

The report released Tuesday also shows San Francisco-based Wells Fargo fell from first place to second place behind Citigroup among the largest banks. Although Wells Fargo is reeling from a fake-accounts scandal, the report attributed Wells’ drop in the rankings more to its failure to keep up with gains from peers.

Banks as a group, from community banks to national banks, received their highest customer satisfaction score in the study’s more than 20-year history. That improvement reflects in large part technological advances, such as in mobile banking, that provide customers benefits such as greater convenience, David VanAmburg, ACSI managing director, said in an interview.

“Consumers are in fact somewhat happier with their banking experience overall ... from the largest national banks to the smallest community banks,” VanAmburg said.

As usual, though, larger banks scored lower than their smaller competitors, which excel particularly in staff courtesy, transaction speed and website quality, the report says.

Customers see the only advantage from larger banks as being their number and location of branches and automated teller machines, according to the report. National banks also scored poorest in the category of competitiveness of interest rates.

But higher scores for national banks, a group that includes Bank of America and Wells Fargo, helped narrow this year’s score gap between smaller competitors.

Bank of America, the second-largest U.S. bank by assets, posted its largest score ever, 75, on the 100-point scale, up seven points from last year’s score of 68.

That’s also the highest score for Bank of America since a post-financial crisis low of 66 in 2012. Bank of America’s 10.3 percent growth over last year was also the second-best improvement among the largest banks, behind Citibank’s 12.3 percent gain.

It still wasn’t enough to lift Bank of America from last place, a position it now shares with JPMorgan Chase, the biggest U.S. bank, which scored four points better than last year.

“Bank of America has been in a laggard position in the industry for a very long time. For whatever reason it’s taken Bank of America longer to rebound,” VanAmburg said. “So this is a big move for them, a big improvement. It’s something that they should be able to build on going forward.”

Wells Fargo’s score rose one point to 76. That was smaller than the nine-point gain by Citibank, whose score rose to 82, now the highest among the largest banks.

VanAmburg said it’s hard to attribute Wells’ growth lag to the fake-accounts scandal, because that matter affected a small percentage of its customers. Instead, Wells’ showing reflects customers’ experience of service quality, he said.

In a statement, Wells Fargo spokesman Josh Dunn said the bank is pleased with the results of the survey and that it’s committed to continuously improving customers’ experience.

Bank of America spokeswoman Kathleen Von Bergen said the bank continues to make strides with customer experience and the survey’s results represent that progress.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index report covers banks, credit unions, health insurance, property/casualty insurance, life insurance and internet investment services. It is based on interviews with 9,608 customers, chosen at random and contacted via email between July 11 and September 23.

Deon Roberts: 704-358-5248, @DeonERoberts