It's easy these days to criticize a company online when you have a bad experience at a restaurant, big-box store -- or a bank. Rarely does an aggrieved customer have a distribution list of journalists around the country.
But that's what happened Tuesday when bank analyst Dick Bove of Rochdale Securities, a frequent source for financial magazines, newspapers and CNBC, and a stalwart defender of the nation's big banks, sent out a note detailing his frustrations with Wells Fargo's customer service.
His list of grievances would read strikingly familiar to most everyday customers, and resonates particularly here in Charlotte.
For background, Bove, who lives near Tampa, revealed that he was a long-time Wachovia customer and said the Charlotte bank "excelled in customer service." After Wells Fargo acquired the bank as it teetered on the edge of failure, the service began to decline, Bove says, and is now "unacceptable." Here's what happened to him, as he recounts:
- No one greets him when he enters his local branch. One time, the banker he wanted to meet made him wait, went to the bathroom, then left the bank.
- Another time, Bove came to the branch with a "low six figure check" and some questions. A banker told him he couldn't help, and to call Wells customer service line. The customer service rep on the phone told him to go back to the branch.
- A banker called him telling him to refinance his mortgage through HARP, though he did not qualify. Four months later, the bank rejected his refinancing application.
- Wells charged Bove fees on his checking account for "unexplained reasons." He decided to just pay them rather than go through the bank's bureaucracy.
Of course, Bove acknowledges that this is just one man's experience. But as an analyst, his opinion matters a deal more than the average Joe. In his note, he says that he now doesn't take what the bank says at face value despite long believing Wells Fargo is the best run bank in the country.
For the record, Bove still feels Wells Fargo's stock (at $33.41 this morning) is undervalued.
Also for the record, Bove is closing Wells accounts and opening ones at JPMorgan Chase.
Update: Wells Fargo provided the following statement:
While we do not comment on analyst reports, it is important to note that Wells Fargo conducts more than 60,000 surveys of its retail banking customers every month. Throughout the merger nearly eight out of 10 customers indicated they were "extremely satisfied" with their recent visit to a Wells Fargo retail banking store, the highest possible rating. During the second quarter 2012, customers again rated their experience in our stores at an all-time high, based on survey results.
Customer service is incredibly important and central to our vision and values at Wells Fargo, just one reason we survey our own customers as we know our most important feedback comes directly from them. We look to the data, we also recognize that we're only as good as our last interaction and we remain committed to putting our customers at the center of everything we do.
Wells Fargo ranked #1 in customer satisfaction among the largest U.S. retail banks in the annual American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) survey in 2009 through 2011. Wachovia ranked number one in the survey from 2001 to 2008.At Wells Fargo's investor day in May, community banking regional president Stan Kelly said the bank's internal surveys showed that service in North and South Carolina was better than anywhere else in the country.