Bank of America knows its customer service is awful

Chief executive Brian Moynihan tells employees to be nicer, but it's the bank's proposed fees that consumers loathe.

By Jason Notte Jan 29, 2013 2:19PM
Bank of America Corp. signage is displayed outside of a branch in San Francisco, California David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesWhen even the CEO thinks employees need to ease up on consumers, it's a pretty good sign a company's customer service could use some work.


Bank of America (BAC) chief executive Brian Moynihan has sent a letter to nearly 270,000 employees telling them to make it easier for customers to do business with the bank, especially in light of its poor performance in customer satisfaction surveys.


Moynihan's letter, which Reuters viewed a copy of, urges workers on the phones at customer call centers to use the same "problem-solving approach" as U.S. Trust and Bank of America's own Merrill Lynch representatives do with their well-off clientele.


As it stands, Bank of America customers feel like chattel compared to other banks' human assets. The latest American Customer Satisfaction Index shows Bank of America's score sliding 3% from last year to 66, its poorest showing in a decade and well beneath the 79 scored by small banks and credit unions or even the 74 posted by JPMorgan Chase (JPM).


"Customers increasingly are rejecting the ever-mounting fees charged by large banks and taking their business to credit unions instead," Claes Fornell, ACSI founder, said in a statement. "Bank of America, in particular, stands out as the only bank that is still below its pre-recession customer satisfaction level. It is clear that this is mostly because of fees."


Though Bank of America has had problems coordinating its banking and lending branches since acquiring troubled mortgage broker Countrywide in 2008, its customer relations nightmare began in earnest back in 2011 when it suggested a $5 monthly fee for debit card use. The Occupy movement seized on the ensuing customer anger to encourage the transfer of assets from Bank of America and other large banks to small banks and credit unions.


That didn't stop Bank of America from trying a fee hike again last year, with representatives from Massachusetts blowing the whistle on those plans to The Wall Street Journal in March. By November, plans to force customers to avoid fees by shunning tellers, maintaining minimum balances, getting Bank of America credit cards and holding mortgages with the bank were dead and Moynihan was in full retreat.


The bank's chief executive says his new customer service plan will roll out during a big company event on Thursday, but he's still in as tough a spot as ever. Profits were down 63% in the fourth quarter as $5 billion in mortgage-related charges dragged down Bank of America's numbers. Investors don't care much about low rates, federal regulations or the bank's mortgage mess -- which predates the Countrywide deal. Customers, meanwhile, have been adamant that investor profits shouldn't be paid for by the bank's low-income accountholders, who are disproportionately affected by new and rising fees.


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71Comments
Jan 29, 2013 2:45PM
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I have my mortgage with them and they are the worst when it comes to interacting with their customers. They are so wrapped up in their bureaucracy you can't get a straight answer from them.

 

 

Jan 29, 2013 2:55PM
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It's a little too late for the BOA.  You have proven you dont give a crap about people, only their money.  I would not walk across the street to spit on you if you were on fire.
Jan 29, 2013 3:04PM
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Years ago I joined BofA. Briefly.  I soon found that I was charged if my balance dropped below $300, if I talked to a teller, or if I used a BofA ATM that was not physically located at a bank! I then started telephoning in to check my balance, and found they charge for calling more than a few times a month.  So basically then wanted my money but nothing to do with me as a customer and would hit me with fees if I wanted to contact them.  I left for a different bank and have had no fees since. 

Jan 29, 2013 3:49PM
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Wal-Mart accidentally charged me FOUR times for a single purchase! When I contacted BOA to report the mistake, they fixed it for me...CHARGING ME $109.00 for the privilege of doing it. I am furious!! It's bad enough that they charge me money to use my OWN money but now they have charged me to correct the mistakes others did to my account. Oh, did I mention that it has also cost me $270 in nsf fees because several small checks (under $10) were returned while they were straightening out the mess?? So, a mistake by Wal-Mart, corrected by BOA, has cost me over $380.00...an amount MORE than the actual correction they made to my account was.

 

Have I complained? Oh, heck, yeah! Has it been straightened out yet? Seriously?? They are still investigating the matter so NOTHING has been done. 

 

I don't know about everyone else, but I live pay check to pay check and $380 is a LOT of money to me. 

Jan 29, 2013 2:58PM
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Ya right! and Donald Trump is going to change is hair style. B of A and Wells Fargo go to the same school of customer service. You just can't say you're going to change, it's a culture that stems from the top down and these two bad players have "Rotten" at the top with a capital (R)..
Jan 29, 2013 3:08PM
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Last year I closed my account at Wells Fargo in Texas after repeated rudeness every time I went inside.
Ironically, the entire employee base was Hispanic, and I would notice that they were considerate to other Hispanics, but then would act totally different when It was my turn to be waited on. I have since talked to other individuals about this that had the same experience. I mentioned this to the manager before I closed my accounts and all she said was, "I'm sorry." She didn't ask for specifics and offered none because it was obvious by her short reply she was not interested. 
I took my savings and checking and moved to another bank and have not had any rudeness from any employee.
Jan 29, 2013 3:47PM
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Join a credit union, it's the best.  A bad credit union is as good as the best bank!!!
Jan 29, 2013 3:06PM
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The issue isn't the staff, it's the corporate policy.  The staff isn't empowered to help the people that have been hurt by the practices of BoA and all the other banks that sank our economy.  They were very nice when they told me there was nothing they could do to lift the on-going late fees while I worked out a plan with them to catch up on my bill.  They only care about milking customers for every possible dime no matter what their situation is.  THe problems always start at the top. Brian Moynihan should look in the mirror.  Being "nice" isn't the issue, helping people is.
Jan 29, 2013 4:31PM
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I think most Americans are sick of the banks. Doesn't seem to matter what bank, Americans just don't like the banks anymore.
Jan 29, 2013 3:15PM
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It always always starts at the top.  If most employees believe this is but a marketting ploy nothing will change.  This entire Corporatism mentality reeks of greed and arrogance.  Try contacting the customer service of an airline, a cable company, a bank.  They are all on the same page.  Namely "go somewhere else if you don't like it"  the whole time knowing they are all in agreement with the same game plan.  I think when these Internationals meet once every year they all collude and agree the entire time attacking unions and anyone or thing the consumers may use as leverage.  Just Lovely isn't it. The latest is subway. Their 11 inch foot long where the employee stretched one slice of onion out to the length of the bread.  Five olives, actually counting out five olives and 5 jalopenas.  She was a latino counting them out silently so you know she was doing exactly what she was told.
Jan 29, 2013 4:05PM
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If you can't be nice then they should at least be competent. Some of them are neither.
Jan 29, 2013 4:56PM
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I opened a savings account with NationsBank many, many years ago. I stuck with NationsBank and Bank of America for a long time. I even stuck with them when they changed the minimum amount needed for waiving fees from a monthly average to the average of the last 5 days of the ledger period (or something like that).

But when BoA decided to float the idea of charging me $5/month to use my own money, as painful as it was to transfer my money, I left them and joined a credit union that my company was a member of.

My checking account with my credit union pays interest. It isn't much, in the neighborhood of 2.5% per month. But it beats a charge. My credit union also paid out a dividend today, and they deposited the money directly into my savings account.

Remember: banks (even local banks) work for shareholders; credit unions work for members.

Jan 29, 2013 3:02PM
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All banks are bad but bofa and chase lead the pack, with hsbc catching up, that's wh I left them for TD who has got to be the best bank. For just a 100 balance everythings free
Jan 29, 2013 4:13PM
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Worst ever...had their mortgage side and credit card side...no longer and never again...worst customer service  I've ever had to deal with.

 

Jan 29, 2013 4:35PM
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All this pain would go away for all of us if we just started supporting local banks and credit unions.  I used to use BofA then wondered why in the hell would I pay them so much money for services they are forcing to begin with.  I have never been happier than with a credit union.  PS. I do work for a Bank and would never to personal business with it or any other large banking chain.
Jan 29, 2013 4:22PM
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just checked BoA for a wire transfer....$35 so checked with my credit union.....$20 (I wonder which one I chose?)
Jan 29, 2013 5:05PM
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I used to bank at BOA.  I pulled all of my accounts out over 2 years ago because of their bad customer service and refusal to do any problem solving at all. 
Jan 29, 2013 5:38PM
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BoA can take a long walk off of a short pier.  WAKE UP AMERICA!  Stop giving these greedy bastards your hard earned money!!  I have closed all of my BoA accounts and it felt great!  Sure it is a small inconvienience to switch to a credit union, but they will treat you right.  Thanks for being a major player in the downfall of the US and global economies Bank of America!  Thanks for taking away millions of homes from hard working Americans with your toxic loans !  Way to repay the taxpayers who bailed you out! 
Jan 29, 2013 4:09PM
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We tried the Credit Union while with Wells and B of A. Biggest issue was needing a refinance of our mortgage to a lower interest rate, appraisal fee and closing costs.  Credit Union wanted 2 points to meet Wells rate and closing costs and appraisal were much higher than Wells. We are maybe fortunate however we have never had bad service from B of A, Wells or the credit union. They all have brochures that define the charges for all fees and best accounts to have to lower or eliminate fees.

Jan 29, 2013 3:30PM
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HOW ABOUT BEING NICER TO YOUR EMPLOYEES BU$T WIPE MOYNIHAN !!!  MAYBE THEN THEY WOULD BE NICER TO THE CUSTOMER.  BANK THAT SCREWS AMERICA IS SCREWING ITS EMPLOYEES EVERY CHANCE IT GETS.  IT JUST SOLD A BUNCH OF BRANCHES IN SOUTHWEST MISSOURI TO ARVEST BANKS (WAL MART) AND WILL NOT REHIRE THE EMPLOYEES THAT ARVEST WILL NOT HIRE REGUARDLESS OF HOW LONG THEY WERE SLAVES OF THE COMMIE BANK.  PULL YOUR FUNDS OUT AND PUT THEM IN A CREDIT UNION.  FREE CHECKING AT MY CREDIT UNION AND NO FEES. 
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