US consumer satisfaction with goods and services remained strong in Q409, dipping only 0.1% from the previous quarter to a 75.9 score out of 100, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), a quarterly indicator of consumer mentality. ACSI noted “very satisfied customers” across many business sectors, with satisfaction rising overall in the finance and insurance sector. Wells Fargo (WFC) in particular improved in the quarter and scored the highest ranking among banks. The direction of customer satisfaction tends to indicate where demand is heading and how freely consumers intend to spend, ACSI said. “As long as unemployment remains high and credit tight, it is difficult to see how we can get to a sustainable pace of consumer spending growth,” said head of ACSI, Claes Fornell, in a press statement (download here). “But it is not all bad:  the ‘will to spend’ is evidenced by high customer satisfaction. The issue is whether or not consumers have the ‘means to spend.’” Overall satisfaction with the finance and insurance sector improved 1.4% to 77.1 on a scale of 100. Banks hold steady at a score of 75, despite “significant” satisfaction drops at Bank of America (BAC) and JP Morgan Chase (JPM), which both “face challenges” according to ACSI. Smaller banks fared better in satisfaction, with an unchanged aggregate score of 80 in the third consecutive year. Wells Fargo improved 1% to a score of 73 – highest among the large banks – a year after acquiring the Wachovia brand. BofA satisfaction dropped 8% to an industry low of 67 after its Merrill Lynch acquisition and cost-cutting measures in the face of higher than expected debt, ACSI said. Chase, on the other hand, fell 7% to a score of 68 following its purchase of the Washington Mutual brand. The property and casualty insurance industry saw a 1.2% decline in satisfaction, driven by negative reception of higher insurance premiums. The ACSI findings echo the latest mortgage origination customer satisfaction study conducted by JD Power and Associates. Wells Fargo earned a score of 781 in the JD Power survey, well above the 739 industry average and second only to Branch Banking & Trust (BBT), which took the top ranking (783 score) of 23 lenders surveyed. HousingWire contributor Rick Grant studies the importance of customer relationship management for mortgage finance business in the March magazine issue, going to print now. Write to Diana Golobay. Disclosure: The author holds no relevant investment positions.

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