M&T Bank earned the highest score in a small business banking customer satisfaction survey, among 11 Northeast banks rated by J.D. Power.
M&T scored an 815, on a 1,000-point scale, and finished ahead of last year's Northeast region leader, Capital One. The regional average was 782.
J.D. Power calculates its scores based on opinions of customers who have used the products or services that are rated. For small business banking, the ratings included product offerings, banking facilities, fees, account information and the relationship with their account manager.
Robert Neuhaus, financial services consultant with J.D. Power, said M&T to a greater degree than its competitors has account managers or business bankers assigned to work with clients and get familiar with businesses' operations.
"It's almost an old-fashioned concept: Businesses want someone representing them from the bank who takes the time to get to know them," he said. "And when banks invest in that business model, small businesses respond very positively to that."
When small businesses borrow money from a bank, "it's an opportunity to create a more trusting relationship and a closer bond with the bank," he said. "And M&T emphasizes the credit relationships in their strategy."
Citizens Bank scored a 797, for fourth place. KeyBank was eighth, with 784, and Bank of America was 9th, with 768.
M&T and KeyBank were not ranked on the 2016 list because J.D. Power did not conduct the minimum number of interviews with customers of those banks to qualify, Neuhaus said. Last year, Bank of America was fifth and Citizens was sixth on the list.
Across all the regions where J.D. Power conducted its survey, the overall customer satisfaction score was 790, compared to 797 a year ago. "The companies who don't feel like they're getting that close coverage, they're not happy," Neuhaus said. "And that creates an opportunity for banks that emphasize an account-manager driven model and are willing to make that investment in their customer base."
Banks that want to improve their scores should also pay attention to how they treat their small business customers in branches, he said. "Business customers are in the branches frequently. They expect to be greeted by name and known to the branch."
When banks cut costs in branches and reduce staffing, "that's going to put pressure particularly on the business customers," he said.
The full list: 1. M&T Bank, 815; 2. Capital One, 813; 3. TD Bank, 809; 4. Citizens Bank, 797; 5. Chase, 796; 6. PNC Bank, 789; 7. Wells Fargo, 785; 8. KeyBank, 784; 9. Bank of America, 768; 10. Citibank, 760; 11. Santander, 739.