This Is What Americans Want Most From Banks

by Maurie Backman | Updated July 17, 2021 - First published on Jan. 16, 2021

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A bank representative chatting with a customer while sitting on the same side of a table.

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What's the most important thing a bank can offer? The answer may surprise you.

There are plenty of good reasons to choose one bank over another to house your savings or serve as your checking account -- competitive interest rates, convenient locations, and easy ATM access, to name a few. But in a recent study by The Ascent, customers were asked to rank the bank features they regarded as most important. And overall, respondents agreed that quality of banking customer service was the top benefit they're after.

What constitutes good customer service in banking?

Solid customer service from a bank doesn't just mean having friendly representatives who answer the phone. It also means having the ability to solve problems and improve customers' experience.

Here are a few signs that your bank may be sorely lacking in the customer service department:

  • It's difficult to speak to a live person
  • It's tricky to find customer service phone numbers on your bank's website
  • There's a long wait time to speak to a representative
  • Customer service representatives can rarely solve your problem in one phone call
  • The customer service team doesn't follow up on issues despite promising to do so
  • They don't have proper escalation procedures if you need to speak to a manager or higher-up to deal with an emergency

Of course, the people you speak to (whether over the phone or in person) about banking issues should absolutely treat you with respect and have a pleasant demeanor. But to a degree, that's not enough.

Say you attempt to withdraw money from your checking account one day only to find that there's a freeze on your account and you can't access your funds. A bank account can be frozen under specific circumstances, such as when you owe the IRS back taxes you haven't paid. But if you know you're not delinquent on any federal debts and there are no court judgments against you, then seeing your account frozen will come as a shock. And it could easily happen in error -- say, if you have the same name as someone whose account is legitimately tagged for a freeze.

In that scenario, sure, you'll want a friendly customer service representative to speak to. But more so than that, you'll want someone who manages to get you access to your money immediately. And if your bank can only achieve the former, and not the latter, then it may be time to think about a switch.

Don't settle for poor service

Given the number of banks you have to choose from, there's really no reason to settle for anything other than solid customer service. If you're unhappy with this aspect of your bank, it may be time to look at moving your money elsewhere. This especially holds true if there's another bank that's more conveniently located to where you live or work, or that's offering other perks, like higher interest rates on savings and no minimum balance on checking accounts. Don't hesitate to shop around for a bank that better suits your needs -- even if you've had the same account for as long as you can remember.

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