Bank customers generally have positive experiences at branches and ATMs, new survey data suggest.

J.D. Power and Associates' 2012 U.S. Retail Banking Satisfaction Study found that customer satisfaction with the reliability and ease of using ATMs increased to a score of 815 on a 1,000-point scale from 795 a year earlier. Overall bank satisfaction held relatively flat, moving up just one point to 753, while customer satisfaction with bank fees fell to 609 from 625 in 2011 and from 656 in 2010.

"It's a good news-bad news story," Michel Beird, director of banking services at J.D. Power, said in an April 18 interview. “What I took away as a surprise was that the industry overall improved in the in-person interaction, the branch experience and the ATM experience" scores.

Regional banks saw the biggest drop in satisfaction in the bank-fees category when compared with both larger and smaller banks, says Beird. "Convenience is a major mitigating factor for customers of the large banks, so if they aren't happy with fees [but] if there's a branch on every corner, [customers think], 'I can live with that,'" he notes.

While some regional banks may still have a large branch network, they should better convey the value of their business to consumers, according to J.D. Power. " Until they do so, increases in fees will be difficult for customers to understand," Beird says.

J.D. Power surveyed nearly 52,000 consumers in January and February for its latest research. It classified the six biggest financial institutions by deposits as "large banks." It defined regional banks a as those with between $33 billion and $180 billion in deposits, and midsize banks, the smallest institutions considered for the survey, as those with between $2 billion and $33 billion in deposits.

See the longer version at American Banker.com.

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