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Small-business banking improves

By David McMillin · Bankrate.com
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Posted: 12 pm ET

While many personal account holders may be upset with some members of the banking industry, don't expect small-business owners to join the protest just yet.

The results of the J.D. Power and Associates' Small-Business Banking Satisfaction Study are in, and overall satisfaction with banks has increased among small-business owners. On a 1,000-point scale, small-business banking customers averaged a score of 717, up from 711 in 2010.

The study evaluated satisfaction in eight key areas: product offerings, account manager, facility, account information, problem resolution, credit services, fees and account activities. Satisfaction improved in all areas except -- you guessed it -- fees.

The survey responses indicate a crucial point I think some individual customers tend to forget: Fees are only one piece of the banking experience. For small-business owners, these new numbers demonstrate those fees can be well worth it.

I spoke with J. Michael Beird, the director of the study, to gauge his reaction to the results.

"Both the Retail Banking Satisfaction Study this year and this Small Business Banking Study showed improved satisfaction," he says. "Both had improvements in all factors, except for fees, which declined for both customer groups. While customers aren't happy about fees, they are seeing improvements in the overall value of their banking relationship."

Beird highlighted why business owners are able to overlook additional fees: superior customer service.

"For small businesses at banks like M&I, which scored highest in the study, the value of their banking relationship is reinforced through assigned bankers who can address customer concerns and questions, as well as notify them of changes coming that might impact the customer's account or relationship."

This marks the sixth year of the study. When comparing earlier statistics, the results are even more positive for the banking industry. In 2007, average satisfaction scores were 687. As we see new product offerings and new campaigns to improve personal level of service, I think we'll see that upward trend continue.

What are your thoughts? Is the banking industry on track to continue improving customer satisfaction? And does the study make you reflect on the overall relationship you have with your bank? Or are fees at the forefront of your mind?

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