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Gephardt: Pandemic Has People Weighing Customer Service Over Fees In Choosing Banks

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – One of the many aspects of our lives that changed during the pandemic was banking – not only in how we bank, but also where we bank.

For many bank customers surveyed in a new study, the top factor in choosing a bank was a good savings rate. That probably does not surprise anyone. The twist here was what has become the second most important factor.

It is not banking fees, mobile banking access or even security.

“Customer service overtook fees when it comes to a factor when they’re choosing their next savings account,” explained Simon Zhen, a senior analyst with the banking comparison website

Since the pandemic’s start, Zhen and his colleagues have continually surveyed thousands of people on what they want to see from a bank. Before 2020, the savings rate was the number one answer, then banking fees held the number two spot.

In this yearlong study, things changed when 16.01% of those people surveyed identified customer service – behind interest rates — as the top concern. That is a jump of 76% percent compared to their 2019 study. Banking fees still took third at 13.03%

Zhen said while money in 2020’s pandemic economy was certainly tighter, people really got fed up with losing access as bank branches closed or reduced hours.

“In the summer of 2020, we just couldn’t get on the phone to speak to someone. You can’t go to a bank to speak to someone,” he said. “You jump on the phone; you have to wait hours on end and might not be successful getting whatever you needed to get done.”

Zhen said many banks have since stepped-up efforts to be within easy reach, as well as personalized help for customers by waiving fees, lowering loan rates, deferments and other steps. Even in a pandemic, people will want help in real-time.

“All it took was one bad incident, one poor experience for someone to want to switch banks,” he said.

Zhen said the same study showed 2020’s financial uncertainty turned more of us into savers. Before the pandemic, 9% of banking customers said they were aiming to save at least $10,000. Today, it is 28%.

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