CUs up, banks down in customer satisfaction, says annual survey

November 18, 2014

WASHINGTON (11/19/14)--Credit unions ranked significantly higher than banks in consumer satisfaction rankings, according to findings released by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) Tuesday. Credit unions scored an 85, while the average bank scored a 76.

"The ACSI score demonstrates how credit unions are best in class in financial services," said Jim Nussle, president/CEO of the Credit Union National Association. "Credit unions are steadfast in their dedication to member services, in large part because credit union members are credit union owners. Our not-for-profit structure allows us to serve our members rather than focus on maximizing profits for shareholders."

CUNA will be hosting a Twitter chat starting at 3 p.m. (ET) on Nov. 25 featuring a breakdown of the survey numbers, as well as a question-and-answer session discussing credit union best practices for member service. Stakeholders can follow along and submit their own answers using the hashtag #CUServiceExcellence.​

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This is the seventh consecutive year ACSI has included credit unions in the satisfaction survey, and the financial cooperatives have remained on top each year. (See related story: Wash. Post, MONEY among media to pick up CU satisfaction excellence.)

According to the report, credit union members have higher expectations of their credit union than bank customers. For the past two years, member expectations have increased and credit union satisfaction scores have increased as well.

"A growing number of consumers are finding that the best way to avoid bank fees may be to avoid banks altogether," said Claes Fornell, ACSI chairman and founder.

"Credit union membership growth broke records in 2014, and their customers are far more satisfied. The structure of credit unions means they can charge lower and fewer fees, but they still manage to provide superior service in nearly every area, from tellers to websites. Banks can't easily give up the revenue that fees generate, but clearly the pressure is on to improve service," he said.

The report also shows greater member loyalty at credit unions, with the likelihood that a member will continue to do business with the credit union nearly 20% higher than all others measured in the survey. Credit union members also believe they received a higher quality of service for each dollar spent at a credit union than at a bank.

Credit unions also ranked ahead of banks in availability of products and services, ease of making account changes, interest rate competitiveness, understanding account information, and courtesy and helpfulness of staff.

Additionally, the complaint rate among credit unions is less than half that of banks.

ACSI measures the satisfaction of U.S. household consumers with the quality of products and services offered by both foreign and domestic firms with significant share in U.S. markets.

Other measures of consumer trust align with the ASCI ranking, including a recent Harris Poll that found consumer trust in credit unions steady (banks were in decline) and a Chicago Booth Kellogg School Financial Trust Index showed trust in credit unions is 60% (compared with 30% for big banks).