JPMorgan Chase's (NYSE:JPM) reputation as a customer-centric bank came through loud and clear in J.D. Power's latest customer satisfaction survey, with the nation's biggest bank by assets ranking first or second in all four of the survey's geographic regions, according to the survey released on Thursday.
"Over the last five or more years, Chase has gone to great efforts to listen to what their small business clients want and need from a bank," says Jim Miller, senior director of banking at J.D. Power. "They have worked to make it easier to do business with them."
The survey, conducted annually, queries owners or decision makers of businesses with $100,000 to $10 million in annual sales -- small businesses, in banking lexicon. It asks questions about product offerings, account managers, facilities, problem resolution, fees, and how customers interact with the bank, via branches, online, mobile, ATM, etc.
"Chase has been very consistent in performance across the regions in the past three years," Miller wrote in an email. In 2013, it had the highest satisfaction in three out of four regions. And in 2014, it had the highest satisfaction rating in two regions (Northeast and West) and the second-highest rating in the Midwest and South regions.
Miller offered three explanations for JPMorgan Chase's success. First, the New York City-based bank has simplified its product offerings. "For example, they have greatly reduced the number of checking accounts they offer to clients, making it easier on their customers and on their business bankers," said Miller.
Second, JPMorgan Chase is successfully leveraging the extensive branch network it acquired through its purchases of Bank One and Washington Mutual in 2004 and 2008, respectively. "One of Chase's strengths is their branch network, which is strong (convenient locations, long hours, facilities which are in good condition) across most of the markets they serve," explained Miller. "The branch remains very important to businesses and is a key driver of satisfaction."
Finally, JPMorgan Chase is particularly adept at combating customer dissatisfaction. It does so not only by preventing problems but also by doing an "exceptional job in resolving customer problems when they do occur," said Miller.
As the graphic above suggests, JPMorgan Chase's stellar performance across all four regions of the J.D. Power 2015 U.S. Small Business Banking Satisfaction Study seems to give it a leg-up on many of its competitors in the market for small business accounts. Bank of America ranked last in three out of the four regions. Even Wells Fargo, one of the most profitable and conservatively run major American banks, trailed JPMorgan Chase by a wide margin in all but one region -- the West, Wells Fargo's traditional stronghold.
It's tempting to draw a straight line between JPMorgan Chase's success on surveys like this and its top and bottom lines. However, while such a link would probably prove tenuous, results like these nevertheless speak to a bank's culture. And a culture that's focused on pleasing customers, coupled with the three main imperatives of banking (revenue growth, efficiency, and robust risk management), suggests that JPMorgan Chase's management knows who pays the bills.