Charles Davis asks
executives at two of this year’s winning banks in the 2009 JD Power
Retail Banking Consumer Satisfaction Survey about why their
institutions did particularly well in the index. Brent Di Giorgio
at People’s United Bank puts it down to three things, for instance
– training, training and training.

Year in and year out, the JD Power & Associates Retail
Banking Consumer Satisfaction Survey
proves a simple maxim:
good customer service flourishes in mid-sized and smaller
institutions, with a couple of big-name exceptions to the rule.
Only nine banks – out of 7,200 commercial banks in total in the US
– were awarded five points out of five this year, with TD Bank
being the only one awarded the maximum twice.

One of the more significant surveys of the US
banking industry, JD Power’s annual index, published at the end of
last month (see RBI 613), hints that being biggest may
even be a drawback where customer service is concerned.

According to the research group, the level of
customer commitment can be hugely important. For every one million
customers a bank has, a 5 percent increase in the number of
customers shifting from “modestly committed” to “highly committed”
can lead to an additional $1 billion in deposits.

These “free sales-agents” can also be a
counterweight against churn, which is between 10 and 12 percent at
most banks.

At People’s United Bank, a New England
regional bank that received the highest customer satisfaction in
New England, spokesman Brent Di Giorgio said bank management looks
daily for signs of customer commitment: reading notes from
customers, holding informal chats with branch customers and zeroing
in on individual customer relationships to “check under the hood
and see if everything is working”.

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Di Giorgio said the bank attributes its JD
Power ranking to “training, training, and more training”.

“We have invested so much time and energy into
ensuring every employee in the bank knows how to answer every
customer need, and they do so in a way that consistently exceeds,
delights and surprises the customer,” Di Giorgio added.

“We look for people with a retail background,
people who have dealt with the public and are able to face a
variety of situations without being flustered. We think customer
experience can be defined by knowledgeable people who also happen
to be efficient.”

Di Giorgio said that, while the bank’s
research on customer service tends to be more qualitative in
nature, it is terribly important to improvement.

“We do a lot of follow-up with customers,
informally mostly, and we find that personal feedback is as
important as anything else,” he said. “We give our customers all
sorts of ways to talk to us, and when we make mistakes, we don’t
sweep it under the rug, we use them to talk to the customer about
how we can improve the process.”

People’s United branches have two managers, a
financial services manager and a customer service manager, he

“The customer service manager’s job is to walk
the floor and focus solely on the customer experience,” Di Giorgio
said. “Customer service is reported up the chain of command just
like fiscal performance.”

It’s all about ‘the little

Andy Harmening, head of the Regional
Banking Group at Bank of the West, another regional winner, said
customer service is more important than ever in lean economic

“The buzzword these days is getting back to
basics, and customer advocacy scores are down industry wide, but
for three years running we have been going up,” Harmening said. “At
the end of the first quarter we were above 61 percent, and our
consumer advocacy score has increased since then.”

Harmening attributes Bank of the West’s second
consecutive win to “the little things”, such as strong transaction

“We have half as many errors and we correct
them five times faster,” he said. “We have also increased our focus
on customer satisfaction, and we have honed the customer dispute

Harmening said Bank of the West is also
focusing a lot of time on ‘onboarding’ – the moment of account
opening and the first 90 days. “That is the moment where we can
really gain a lot of customer loyalty, provided we do it right,” he
said. “So we have become much more proactive here. We have services
where we need to be more of the expert and recommend things to the

“Online banking, for example, is an area where
we are logging people on right at the account opening and walking
the customer through an online login and spend a few minutes
walking them through the package.”

The result: Bank of the West boasts about
twice the industry standard in internet banking adoption.

Thirty days after onboarding, a banker at Bank
of the West receives an email prompt generated by the bank’s
onboarding system and places a call to the new customer, just to
see how things are going.

“That is taking care of the small stuff, and
it pays off for us, it really does,” Harmening said.


US – banking groups awarded
maximum 5 points in JD Power’s 2009 retail banking satisfaction
study, in alphabetical order



Arvest Bank


Bank of the West


Commerce Bank


Community Bank


Harris National Bank


People’s United Bank

New England

TD Bank


TD Bank

New England



Wells Fargo


(1) now part of Wells Fargo Source: JD