Customer satisfaction with online banking increased its lead over customer satisfaction with the overall banking experience, according to the U.S. 2011 ForeSee Results Online Banking Study, released Thursday.

As the financial sector and the economy slowly recover from a crisis that nearly froze credit markets and cost hundreds of billions of dollars in bank bailouts, Ann Arbor-based ForeSee Results showed that satisfaction with online banking overall regained two points to 83 on a 100-point scale one year after dropping by the same amount. 

Customer satisfaction with banking overall (as measured by the American Customer Satisfaction Index in December 2010) scored 76 using the same methodology, 8 percent lower than satisfaction with online banking.

The study also broke down satisfaction by size or type of banking institution, breaking banks down into the Top 5 banks, Top 6-10, large banks, community banks, and credit unions. While nearly every category improved since last year, large banks gained the most, surging 5 points to overtake credit unions for the first time this year, which climbed two points.

When survey respondents were asked which channel they were most satisfied with, 55 percent selected the online channel while 28 percent chose the branch, 13 percent chose the ATM, and only 2 percent chose call center and mobile banking.

“Brick-and-mortar banks will never go away, but the huge lead online banking has over other channels when it comes to satisfaction emphasizes its importance to a bank’s relationship with its customers,” said Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee Results and author of the report. “The roadmap for improving satisfaction will vary from bank to bank, but the only way to manage and improve the customer experience is to measure it.”

This study measured seven elements of satisfaction with online banking, including things like navigation, the ease of executing online transactions, privacy, and the look and feel of the website, among others.  Large banks scored highest in all but one of these elements, which is why they also have the highest overall satisfaction.

Today’s report shows that when compared to online bankers who are less satisfied, a highly satisfied online banker reports being 41 percent more likely to continue to use online banking services; 52 percent more likely to continue to use the Web site instead of other, costlier channels (branches, call centers); 50 percent more likely to purchase additional services; and 63 percent more likely to recommend the bank.

Highly satisfied online bankers even report being 63 percent more likely to trust their banking institution overall and 56 percent more satisfied with their bank overall, regardless of channel. These figures are based on likelihood scores and help to quantify the multichannel value of a satisfying online banking experience.

“Online customer satisfaction is more than just a talking point or a box to check,” added Freed. “There are clear and quantifiable benefits from improving satisfaction that impact bottom-line business.”

More data resulting from this study will be forthcoming, including data on mobile banking and the influence of social media. Subscribe to Larry Freed’s blog, for data and analysis related to the 2011 ForeSee Results Online Banking Study. A U.K. version of the study will also be released on May 25 and will be available at


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