When it comes to satisfied customers, the nation's two largest banks are heading in opposite directions.

JPMorgan Chase (JPM), the nation's biggest bank by assets, saw its customer satisfaction levels rise in 2012, while Bank of America (BCA), the second-largest bank, posted its lowest mark in a dozen years, according to ACSI, an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based firm that measures customer satisfaction levels across a range of industries.

In ACSI's annual financial services and insurance sector report released Tuesday, JPMorgan Chase scored 74, up 5.7% from a year earlier, and B of A scored 66, down 2.9% from a year earlier.

The banking industry's overall score ticked up 2.7%, to 77,though some big banks saw satisfaction slide. Wells Fargo (WFC) scored 71, down 2.7% from a year earlier, while Citigroup (C) notched a score of 70, a drop of 4.1% from 2011.

Once again, credit unions scored higher than banks in the survey, though the gap is narrowing. Credit unions saw satisfaction fall 5.7%, to 82, from a year earlier.

"We're seeing a shift from the biggest banks toward small banks and toward credit unions, as people move their accounts from the largest banks, and that's having a slight positive effect on customer satisfaction," David VanAmburg, managing director at ACSI, toldAmerican Banker. "The smaller banks are so much more satisfying to consumers so as you get that shift the aggregate level for banking as an industry gets a little better."

"The interesting story among the biggest banks is that B of A is still at that low level and hasn't been able to come back like the other three," VanAmburg added. "Chase, Wells and Citi are all at or statistically close to pre-recession levels. B of A is the lone exception."

For its part, B of A says it is listening to customers and working to gain their goodwill. "We take feedback from our customers very seriously and what they've told us here is clear," Allen Jones, Bank of America's customer experience executive, said in an emailed statement. "Better, more consistent service is central to our efforts, but we know we have more work to do. We are committed to getting it right."

The ACSI asks customers about such factors as the quality of their experience, the value they perceive, and how often things go wrong. VanAmburg says fees cause satisfaction to skid. To avoid a monthly fee, bank customers must maintain an average balance of $723 in their noninterest checking accounts, up 23% from 2011 and the highest balance in 15 years, according to asurveyreleased in September by Bankrate.com.

Though credit unions are seeing customers migrate from banks, credit unions have challenges too, VanAmburg noted. "What we've seen is that there was a downturn in service that reflects a bit of short-term difficulty in reacting to how to deal with a larger number of new account holders given the status quo of the infrastructure of credit unions," VanAmburg said. "We see a small dip that will probably rebound as credit unions grow and figure out how to more effectively serve new customers."

ACSI, which gauges satisfaction among roughly 70,000 customers of about 230 companies in 47 industries, measures satisfaction with banks annually during the third quarter.

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