ANN ARBOR, Mich. (4/22/09)--Credit unions considering online financial services may want to take note of a recent study that measured satisfaction with online financial institutions--including credit unions, banks, credit card websites and investment websites. Customer satisfaction improved during the past year, even as the financial sector of the economy deteriorated, according to a report from ForeSee Results and Forbes.com released Tuesday (BusinessWire April 21). The 2009 Online Financial Services Study--which employs the methodology of the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI)--is the fifth report since the inaugural study in 2003, and shows that despite a weak economy, bank bailouts and tighter credit, financial institutions are using their websites to increase customer loyalty, account activity and positive word of mouth. “It’s not an easy environment for financial institutions to do business. Given all the problems that these companies are having, we might expect satisfaction to slip,” said Larry Freed, president/CEO of ForeSee Results. “But the basic blocking and tackling that these companies are doing online is proving effective. “They don’t need to reinvent the wheel or their website strategy just because the economy is in crisis,” he added. “Focusing on the right fundamentals makes a big difference to the customer experience over time. And it turns out that online satisfaction actually has huge implications for the whole industry.” The improvement for online satisfaction is good news for financial institutions because websites have a large impact on multi-channel operations and future financial success, the study said. Satisfied online customers are more profitable, more loyal, and more likely to engage in positive word of mouth. Highly satisfied customers are significantly more likely than less-satisfied customers to purchase additional services and open more accounts, increasing share of wallet. Also, highly satisfied customers are more likely to increase engagement with the website for information or transactions, introducing cost savings by establishing a user preference for the most efficient service channel. Online financial services companies still have room for improvement. The research identified site performance and functionality as areas where credit unions and banks could maximize return on investment. Functionality and portfolio management are priority areas for investment websites to improve satisfaction, while improving transaction processes and bill-payment features are top priorities for credit card websites.