When Customer Satisfaction Scores Aren’t Telling The Whole Story

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From PR Newswire: “Chase Bank Receives Top Marks in Customer Satisfaction Study”.

The study, conducted by Harris Polls and Google Consumer Surveys Platform, reports that 59% of Chase customers are “satisfied” or “extremely satisfied” – better than Citibank (55%), Bank of America (48%) and Wells Fargo (47%).

What’s wrong with this picture?

Two things. First, this is a classic “best of the worst” scenario. No one with experience in VOC research would consider 59% satisfaction to be satisfactory. The only reason Chase comes out on top is that the competition is weak.

Second, where are the other 7000+ US banks? Not included, of course, because they’re too small. But we can tell you with confidence that a whole lot of them have better than 59% satisfaction.

Let’s look at another source. Here’s some data from the  American Customer Satisfaction Index (ASCI).  It shows overall satisfaction trends among major US banks in the years running up to the global financial meltdown (Citibank is only shown for 2006 – 07, and it follows the Wells Fargo curve):

Notice that the curves are fairly flat, and in a range that can best be described as “unimpressive”. With one exception: Wachovia. Wachovia actually worked hard on its service quality, and in 2006 reached a score of 80, which is impressive for a large bank. One other national bank received similarly high ratings, although ASCI didn’t include it in its published findings: Washington Mutual.

Where are Wachovia and WaMu now? Neither survived the banking meltdown. Wachovia was purchased by Wells Fargo, and WaMu was acquired by Chase. Does that mean that Wells and Chase adopted the service standards of their new acquisitions, and have risen to a higher level of customer satisfaction? Let’s see:

Nope. They’re pretty much in the same range. Chase actually dropped four points, and in this index falls below Citi and Wells.

For interest, we added one more contender: “All Others”. That’s the dashed line that’s floating above the rest. Way above.

In other words, satisfaction with the four biggest retail banks doesn’t meet  the average of the next 7000.

So when we read that Chase “receives top marks in customer satisfaction”, it’s probably best to keep that statistic in context.