ST. LOUIS – While 55% of households who have been through a bank merger don't think it has made a difference, one in five said they were worse off as a result of the merger, while one in seven thought they were better off, according to a recent survey. Maritz Research Inc. conducted an online, national poll April 7-12 of which 1,001 randomly selected participants responded. The survey polled American households on their views of bank mergers and the economy. More than half of all U.S. households have been through a bank merger within the past five years, and one in four has had this experience within the past year, according to the Maritz Poll. Consumers/households who thought they were worse off after a bank merger responded to a list of reasons why. They responded with: not as personal- 24%; higher fees- 23%; service decreased- 22%; additional fees- 21%; familiar branch people left- 10%; changed banks- 2%. "When it comes to mergers, banks need to retain all of the customers they can," said Eric Levy, director of research services for the Financial Services Research Group at Maritz Research. "They certainly can't afford to have any of their customers view them in a negative light. Consumers are often the last ones to know what the benefits of the merger will be and by then it's too late." Most households (51%) currently going through a merger said they will stay with their bank, or will wait and see what happens (35%) but 13% were currently looking for another bank, the poll revealed. Levy said banks "should consider the ramifications of reducing in-branch staff after a merger" and "should forgo cost-cutting measures that include vital bank employees and instead make cuts to non people-oriented functions." "Our research shows that many bank customers value the `face time' and relationships they have with employees at their primary bank branch," Levy said . "Customer service consistency is key when it comes to customer retention during a merger."

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