Big Banks Get Thumbs Down on Customer Service

If you hate your bank, you aren't alone. In the wake of bank failures and shotgun marriages resulting from the financial crisis, customers are far less satisfied with the service they're receiving from the nation's two biggest banks. Bank of America's (BAC) controversial acquisition of Merrill Lynch and JPMorgan Chase's (JPM) purchase of Washington Mutual, once the nation's biggest savings and loan, have consumers giving both institutions the thumbs down.Customer satisfaction with the finance and insurance sector as a whole improved slightly last quarter, according to the most recent report from American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), released Tuesday, but that was because folks were a bit happier with their insurers. As for Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, the numbers suggest that giving away free toasters won't be enough to make up for their shortfalls in satisfaction.

Bank of America saw its customer satisfaction reading plunge 8% to an industry low score of 67 out of 100 points, according to ACSI, while JPMorgan Chase dropped 7% to 68. "Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase ... face a challenging customer environment with significant drops in satisfaction," the survey concluded.

The reasons for the drops in satisfaction are pretty obvious, according to ACSI. Bank of America customers are suffering from the cost-cutting undertaken to offset higher-than-expected debt resulting from the Merrill Lynch acquisition. Meanwhile, JPMorgan Chase is having difficulties swallowing Washington Mutual -- and it's the customers who are getting indigestion.

Overall customer satisfaction with banks held steady, albeit at just 75 out of 100 points, and not all big acquisitions have to lead to consumer heartburn. One year after it scooped up Wachovia, satisfaction with Wells Fargo (WFC) actually improved 1% to ... drum roll please ... 73.

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