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Satisfaction vault

Positive note Axis Bank edges past HDFC Bank and ICICI Bank to the top spot. And yes, state-owned banks are right up there with the best, reports Arnab Mitra. See graphics | India’s best banks

india Updated: Mar 29, 2010 01:00 IST
Arnab Mitra
Arnab Mitra
Hindustan Times

Finally, the dark horse ran away with the prize.

Axis Bank, which many people had written off a few years ago, has been rated India’s best bank, ahead of more famous and in-the-news rivals like HDFC Bank and ICICI Bank.

The first Hindustan Times—MaRS Consumer Satisfaction Survey on Banking, which covered 9,486 respondents across 18 Indian cities, threw up this and several other interesting findings. The survey did not cover foreign banks.

Though no public sector bank has ranked among the three best banks overall, consumers in 14 cities ranked various state-owned banks as the best.

Indian Bank emerged the top-ranked public sector bank, with an overall rank of fourth. State Bank of India, the 800-pound gorilla in the banking sector, was a step behind, sharing the joint fifth place with Indian Overseas Bank.

Says Raghu Roy, managing director, MaRS, HT’s knowledge partner for this survey: “Private banks have done well. But as you can see, they are not the No. 1 in most places. Overall, they score for being consistent. Clearly, they maintain a minimum standard and have a low dispersion index on customer satisfaction.”

Urban Indians gave banks an average index score of 727 out of a maximum possible 1,000. Though it is difficult to interpret this figure in the absence of any comparable previous figure (this being the first survey), it does seem to indicate that customers are far from satisfied with the services provided by their bankers.

The survey showed that 38 per cent, or almost two-fifth, of consumers would happily change their bank. And yes, they would not recommend their bank to friends and relatives. That’s as telling a comment on satisfaction levels as any.

Among the larger cities, Bangalore has the most satisfied bank customers, who gave banks in the city a high index score of 780. But consumers in Bhubaneswar are the most satisfied overall. Orissa’s capital has the highest index score of 812.

Chandigarh, Ludhiana and Delhi are other cities with high levels of satisfaction. This speaks as much of these cities as of the banks rated. One reason could be that north Indians are more demanding customers than others and much more vocal about voicing their opinions. This may have forced banks to provide better services.

It is also, perhaps, no coincidence that Kolkata, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad appear to be cities with much lower satisfaction levels. Consumers in Patna, which has an index score of 617, however, are the least satisfied.

The survey also indicates that the quality of service at public sector banks vary widely from city to city, while their private sector rivals largely gave customers much more homogenous quality standards.

“The study shows that public sector banks can deliver on customer satisfaction. They have beaten their private sector counterparts in most cities. If only they can raise their minimum standards, they will give private banks a run for their money,” says Roy.

Interestingly, there are no private banks among the top 10 in Lucknow. This, and the fact that public sector banks topped satisfaction levels in 14 of the 18 cities, indicates that large sections of the middle class, even in metros — but especially in the smaller cities — still prefer government-owned banks, despite their shabby image and often indifferent service standards.

It also shows that no individual bank really commands customer loyalty across the length and breadth of the country.

That should give private sector banks some food for thought.