Poor quality of Wells Fargo service angers bank analyst

July 24 Tue Jul 24, 2012 11:33pm IST

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July 24 (Reuters) - Wells Fargo & Co ticked off the wrong customer.

Veteran bank analyst Dick Bove, normally a strong defender of big banks, lashed out on Tuesday against the No. 4 U.S. bank for the poor service it provided one of its customers: Him.

In an unusual research note, Bove, of Rochdale Research, listed a series of grievances at his branch in Tampa, Florida, where he said he enjoyed strong service before Wells bought Wachovia in 2008.

He still views Wells Fargo as one of the best managed banks in the United States, but concludes that serving customers well is much less important than selling them products. Effective financial management is also more important than customer service, he added.

But Bove does care about customer service. He has been moving his accounts to JPMorgan Chase & Co, which is expanding in the Tampa market.

Wells Fargo spokeswoman Mary Eshet said the bank does not comment on analyst reports, but noted the bank conducts more than 60,000 surveys of retail banking customers each month. During the Wachovia merger, nearly eight out of 10 customers indicated they were "extremely satisfied," the highest rating, she said.

"Customer service is incredibly important and central to our vision and values at Wells Fargo," Eshet said. "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."

Bove does not feel the bank was putting him first. In his report, he describes when a banker asked him to wait to talk with him, but instead went to the bathroom and then left the branch. In another example, the branch referred Bove to a call center for a question about a check, only to have the call center refer him back to the branch.

In an interview, Bove said the last straw came about 10 days ago when he withdrew an application to refinance his mortgage that had dragged on for about four months. Wells later sent him a note saying his application had been denied, which could hurt his credit rating.

Bove said he has been talking with the bank about his grievances for months, telling them his experience made him question the its statements about commitment to customer service.

"What my Wells Fargo experience suggests is that a successful bank is one that keeps seeking new customers and selling them more products and not getting bogged down by offering service," Bove wrote in his note.

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