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How Bad Are Banks at Customer Service?

By Hal M. Bundrick

NEW YORK (MainStreet) One-third of bank customers are still smoldering over a problem that they couldn't get completely resolved. With that fact as a backdrop, nearly two-thirds (65%) of bank customers surveyed by the Carlisle & Gallagher Consulting Group say their primary financial institution is not as good as -- or much weaker than -- great customer service companies like Zappos, Amazon or Disney.

And nearly three-quarters (72%) of the problems that were resolved required two or more interactions.

Apparently there are a lot of things that can go wrong with banking services. The survey reveals that core banking products are frustrating consumers most. More than one third (38%) of complaints focused on personal checking, 14% on credit cards, 12% on mortgage related issues and 12% on debit cards. Some of the issues most difficult to resolve were:

  • Mortgage problems -- 88% of the issues reported required 2 or more interactions. Most involved loan modification and loan servicing.
  • Credit cards -- 72% of credit card problems required 2 or more interactions and centered on fraud and disputed transactions.
  • Debit cards -- 66% of debit card problems required 2 or more interactions and involved fraud and frozen accounts.
  • Personal checking -- 64% of personal checking problems required 2 or more interactions and were in regard to erroneous fees and missing or misapplied payments.

Getting your problem solved on the first call is a rare but rewarded response: 22% of consumers said they would do more business with the bank when their issue is resolved with one interaction. More than half (51%) of consumers stated they felt like a "valued customer" when their issue was resolved in one interaction -- and their confidence in the financial institution increased by 38%.

"Financial institutions have a long way to go to become great customer service organizations," said Patricia Sahm of Carlisle & Gallagher. "In today's world of instant gratification, consumer expectations are being shaped by experiences outside of the financial services industry where content, interactions and features are richer, delivering a more engaging and rewarding experience for the consumer."

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau allows consumers to file a complaint regarding banking services and products and works to gain a response on their behalf. Financial institutions have 15 days to respond to the CFPB regarding filed issues. The bureau also shares complaint data with state and federal agencies with regulatory authority over financial institutions.

--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet