(Bloomberg News) Citigroup Inc.'s campaign to repair its U.S. customer-service reputation may be making progress: clients are becoming more likely to recommend the bank, rather than disparage it, an internal memo shows.
The consumer unit's "net promoter score" -- a gauge of how many people would recommend or denounce its service -- has climbed to a 2010 high of 54%, from 46% at the end of last year, according to an Oct. 25 staff memo from the division's chief, Manuel Medina-Mora. A score of at least 50% shows business is likely to grow, according to Satmetrix Systems Inc., an owner of the measure's trademark.
Citigroup's image was battered by more than $29 billion of losses during the past two calendar years tied in part to subprime mortgages and a U.S. bailout that included $45 billion of taxpayer money. On top of that, the retail bank ranked last or second-to-last on customer service in three of the five regions in which it operates, according to a survey in January and February by marketing consultant J.D. Power & Associates.
"They're digging their way out of a hole," said Jack Trout, president of the Trout & Partners Ltd. marketing strategy firm in Old Greenwich, Connecticut. "I would say you might call it progress, but it's very slow progress and they have a long way to go."
Contents of Medina-Mora's October memo were confirmed by Natalie Riper, a spokeswoman for New York-based Citigroup, which is 12% owned by the U.S. government.
Medina-Mora, 60, appointed in January to shake up the North American consumer unit, told 9,000 employees to undergo training and in June unveiled a U.S. ad campaign called "Stories."
'Just One Measure'
The North American consumer unit's income fell 67% to $231 million during this year's first nine months, according to Citigroup, the third-biggest U.S. bank by assets. The lender had 1,000 branches and $144.9 billion of deposits in the North American regional consumer banking unit at the end of September.
Citigroup recognizes that its net promoter score "is just one measure," Riper said in an e-mailed statement. "We still take very seriously external customer surveys including J.D. Power, where we know we have a long way to go."
The score is a "loyalty metric" that evaluates a company's growth prospects by asking customers whether they would recommend it to their friends and family, according to netpromoter.com, which is maintained by San Mateo, California- based Satmetrix.