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Only 23% of customers happy with their bank: Study

Digital banking makes life easier, but when it comes to important elements of service, customers say their banks are falling far short.

Only 23 percent of customers globally believe their bank is meeting their expectations, according a newly released survey of 9,000 bank customers in nine countries by FIS, a banking and payments technology company. (Tweet This)

"On basic banking, they didn't score well," despite the high marks they got on technology, said Anthony Jabbour, executive vice president of integrated financial services at FIS.

Taking tech for granted

Login screen on smartphone
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FIS found that safety and security were among bank customers' top priorities, and banks were providing less than customers wanted.

"[S]afety and security are universal concerns. Delivering on those attributes therefore represents the price of basic entry for being in the banking business," the FIS report concluded.

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Transparency on pricing and fees was another problem for banks, the FIS report highlighted, giving weight to earlier research by accounting firm EY. A 2014 study by that firm found that "customers want financial institutions to be clearer about what they offer, the fees they are charging and how to avoid paying fees." It also found that consumers were willing to bring more business to their bank if they thought the bank could provide personalized, holistic advice.

A number of banks fell short on personalized banking in the FIS study as well, though smaller institutions fared relatively well. "[Smaller banks] are in the community with the customer and know them well, know the families well," Jabbour. "It's easier to customize solutions for them."

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A 2014 Harris poll found other advantages for smaller financial institutions: People indicated that the financial institutions they trusted most were local credit unions and community banks, and trust declined the bigger the banks got.

Where the winners are

FIS examined bank customers' experience in nine different countries, and on that scale the U.S. fared relatively well, beating out everyone but Germany. German banks received a score of 83 out of 100, with 100 the level where a bank is perfectly meeting expectations. Germans said their banks were good at "helping them to control their finances and anticipating their needs," FIS found.

U.S. banks scored 80 overall on the same scale, with security and safety the main reason they fell behind Germany. But some institutions fared better than others. Community banks and credit unions scored high for quality of service and in-person experience. Large banks, meanwhile, got lower scores on fairness (defined as no hidden fees or charges) and transparency.

Second place is nothing to scoff at, of course. But if the best U.S. banks can deliver is four-fifths of perfect satisfaction, they have a ways to go.