Big banks losing customers because of poor service

More customers are leaving banks this year because of unmet customer expectations, a study shows.

More customers are leaving banks this year because of unmet customer expectations, a study shows. The J.D. Power and Associates survey released Monday revealed that between 10 and 11.3 percent of customers who belonged to regional and midsize banks defected last year. That rate rose from 7.4 to 9.8 percent on average in 2010.

Nearly one third of customers who left big banks cited fee increases as a primary reason for taking their business elsewhere. Michael Beird, director of J.D. Power's banking services practice, said that consumers also reported poor customer service at the chains, and that fee hikes just acted as a final straw.

"Service experiences that fall below customer expectations are a powerful influencer that primes customers for switching once a subsequent event gives them a final reason to defect," said Beird.

Smaller banks have had some luck as customers left larger banks. Only 0.9 percent of customers left credit unions and small banks last year, down from 8.8 percent, and they could see a much better retention rate in 2012, according to the study's findings. About half of customers who joined a new bank and based their decision on customer satisfaction and loyalty recommendations said they definitely don't plan on leaving within the next year.