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When It Comes to Acquiring New Bank Customers, Ratings Matter But Customer Reviews May Make the Difference

Complexsearch.com looks at 10 traditional and online banks to compare ratings with customer reviews and provide insight into how reviews may affect the decision making process

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Nov. 15, 2012 /PRNewswire-iReach/ -- The bank you choose makes just as much of an impact on you as the car you drive, the phone you use, or the insurance you depend on. The banking industry may seem different on the surface, but the reality is that many customers make the decision of what bank to choose based on factors other than just financial health or even interest rates.  26 percent of consumers would never choose a bank without reading at least one user review, according to a study by Kelton Research and Bazaarvoice. And an overwhelming 83 percent of consumers say it would be important to read user-generated content before making a decision about banking or other financial services.

(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20121115/CG13375)

With the average consumer checking over 10 sources before making a commitment, reviews of banks are critical to converting a prospective customer into a card-carrying bank member.  Complexsearch.com has evaluated 10 traditional and online banks, comparing ratings with customer reviews. Here's a sample of our findings and our perspective on how potential customers might view the information they find online.

Chase Bank, otherwise known as JPMorgan Chase & Co., is the largest American bank by assets.  Chase is a major player in the world of wealth and asset management and has well over 5,000 branches.  Known for their innovative technology and mobile applications, Chase even allows customers to take a picture of checks and deposit them by phone.  Things like this definitely provide a "cool" factor which is rare with big banks.  While it's easy to find great reviews for Chase, it is even easier to find terrible reviews. With an overall grade of poor, customers complain online about everything from service and underwriting, to unfair charges and reduced credit limits.  Looking at online reviews may provide more confusion than clarity for many potential customers. Word of mouth referrals from friends and family may be a deciding factor for those that choose Chase.

Ally Bank is an online bank that gets great ratings for financial health, interest rates, fees, and features. We've reviewed Ally before on Complexsearch and it always gets great marks. Looking at customer reviews on multiple sites, they ranged from five star reviews highlighting great interest rates and first class customer service, down to furious customers complaining about a lack of follow up from Ally for a variety of issues. Given the high volume of reviews for Ally, they average out with a grade of fair. Comparing these reviews side by side, our bet is that most customers will be willing to give Ally a try and assume the bad reviews are isolated incidents.

Fifth Third Bank, a state-chartered bank based in Ohio, has over 1,300 branches. The bank gets high marks for financial health, but the good news ends there. They are considered middle of the road for interest rates and fees, however customer reviews are generally poor.  We've given Fifth Third Bank credit before for being one of the top performing banks in the nation. This may be overshadowed by the customer reviews, which generally highlight terrible service and a total lack of flexibility when addressing customer problems. We know Fifth Third is going through a rebrand as the "curious bank" and has placed renewed interest in social media and community management. We'll be interested to see if this makes a difference in their reputation.

Charles Schwab Bank is an online bank and subsidiary of the Charles Schwab Corporation.  As we've mentioned before on Complexsearch, Schwab Bank offers unique advice to each client and their main purpose is to help them understand their investment and financial options, which differentiates them from other banks. Overall ratings are good for bank health, fees, and features, however their website is very minimalist compared to the robust features of their competitors. The aggregate of customer reviews gives Schwab Bank a grade of good, but this is comprised of mostly five star or one star reviews. Prospective customers will either find comfort in the droves of happy customers reporting excellent customer service and the best banking experience ever, or move on due to the reviews claiming deceit and bait and switch tactics.  It is unusual to see a bank with reviews that are in such opposition.

PNC Bank has received plenty of recognition from the media. They have consistently been recognized by BusinessWeek magazine as one of the 50 top-performing companies and Fortune magazine calls PNC Bank one of the "most admired companies."  With over 3,000 branches, they get good ratings for accessibility and financial health. PNC Bank receives a poor grade, however, when it comes to customer reviews. Prospective customers have to factor in that many reviewers may be former National City Bank customers who haven't been thrilled with the migration...this seems to be a common theme. They also received consistently bad marks from customers on everything from accuracy to unfair fees.  All in all, we can't see how any prospective customer wouldn't have doubts about PNC after reading the reviews currently available online.

While it might seem easy to dismiss the importance of customer reviews, we recommend that you don't.  Given that 83 percent of consumers think it is important to read reviews before making a decision about banking or financial services, there is a good chance that a bank's prospective customers will be seeing the same reviews we've found online.  Banks need to monitor reviews and continue to impress upon employees that everyone has the ability to create a positive or negative customer experience--and that could very well end up online as a review. For complete information on all 10 banks reviewed, visit Complexsearch.com.

About Complexsearch | ComplexSearch.com is a bank rate tracking site that focuses on consumer high interest savings and money market accounts. We strive to find the top banking rates available, as well as bank deals and promotions, then report them in a timely fashion. We focus on these bank products: CD Rates, Money Market Account Rates, Saving Account Rates, Checking Account Rates and Credit Card Interest Rates.

Media Contact: Cara Posey Complexsearch.com, 2026305270, [email protected]

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