Survey: Online banking gets bonus from users

Online banking is up from 78 points last year

When it comes to using online financial services, users are more satisfied with the online experience offered by banks than by credit card or investment firms, according to a survey released Tuesday.

Online banking scored 82 out of 100 points, up from 78 points last year, while credit card and investment Web sites both scored 75, according to the 2008 ForeSee Results/Forbes.com Online Financial Services Study, which employs the methodology of the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). The online banking score rivals the satisfaction score of 83 for online retail, the highest scoring category measured by ACSI, said Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee Results and author of the study, in a statement.

The organization surveyed 1,600 people between March 7 and March 25. This was the first year the study surveyed users of credit card and investment Web sites.

"Online banking is setting the bar for online financial services," Freed said. "Improving customer satisfaction is an effective way to move customers to the most cost-efficient channel. It's smart business."

User satisfaction with online banking is up because banks have found the winning formula for providing value, convenience, information and transactional features online, the report said. Over the years, banks have managed to convince a large number of customers of the convenience, value and security of banking online, it said.

Credit card and investment firms, however, have not yet achieved that winning formula, Freed said.

In fact, the lower score for credit card Web sites indicates that credit card companies are not using their Web sites to improve their overall business operations, the report said. Although credit card companies do not usually have strong relationships with their customers, the study suggests that if they invest in improving their users' online experiences, they could increase customer loyalty, Freed said. Investment firms are still having trouble providing users with a convenient and easy-to-use Web site for what are often complex financial transactions, he said.

"Financial services firms should resist the temptation to cut investment in the online channel in times of tight money," Freed said. "Our research suggests that, if anything, a commitment to improving satisfaction with the Web channel can improve both overall loyalty and the bottom line by moving customers into the most cost-efficient service channel."

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