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Credit unions’ service advantage slipping?

By Claes Bell ·
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Posted: 9 am ET


Credit unions have traditionally earned better marks from customers than banks. But according to some new numbers from a national index of customer satisfaction, banks may be starting to close the gap.

Losing their touch?

The most recent numbers from the American Customer Satisfaction Index show credit unions received their lowest scores since 2010. On ACSI's 100-point scale, credit unions received an overall score of 81, down from 85 last year. Members gave credit unions lower marks for everything from satisfaction with their call centers to the ease of adding or making changes to accounts.

Why the lower scores? Credit unions may be victims of their own success. ACSI researchers attribute the decline in customer service scores to trouble dealing with an influx of new customers, which this year pushed the total number of credit union members nationwide past 101 million for the first time.

"Smaller, more nimble companies that can provide a more personalized experience tend to perform better than large corporations," says David VanAmburg, ACSI managing director. "This has been the advantage for the credit union industry, which for years has led banks by a wide margin in ACSI. But as credit unions add large numbers of new members, they may struggle to maintain better service levels compared with traditional banks, particularly small community banks, which now nearly tie credit unions."

Banks close the gap by staying flat

Regional and community banks, long considered more consumer-friendly than their larger counterparts, saw their score unchanged this year, but are now within 1 point of credit unions at 80. Their biggest advantages over larger banks came in these categories:

  • Ease of understanding information about accounts.
  • Competitiveness of interest rates.
  • Variety of financial services available.
  • Ease of adding or making changes to accounts.
  • Speed with which financial transactions are completed.

Large banks also saw their overall customer service score remain unchanged at 72, but they continue to trail smaller banks on every single criteria ACSI scores except the number and location of ATMs and branches.

What do you think? Have you noticed a decline of the quality of service at your credit union?

Follow me on Twitter: @claesbell

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