Bigger is not proving to be better for online customers of Citigroup ( C). The No. 1 financial services company by size received an uninspiring rating in a just-released survey analyzing the "online experience'' at top banks and brokers. Citi scored particularly poorly when it came to responding to online customer requests for information. The lackluster showing in the survey by the Customer Respect Group is at odds with the bank's promotional image as a customer-friendly financial supermarket that offers banking and brokerage services. Citigroup's much-hyped business model came in for criticism in last year's tainted-stock research scandal. Critics contend the bank's goals of serving both retail and corporate clients are at odds. On a scale of 1 to 10, Citigroup scored a 5.4 in the survey, which was well below the industry's average score of 6.7. Some of the competitors Citigroup ranked behind included J.P. Morgan Chase ( JPM), Merrill Lynch ( MER), Bank of America ( BAC) and Wachovia ( WB). Citigroup could not be reached for comment on the report. The Customer Respect Group, a Bellevue, Wash.-based consulting firm, considers responsiveness, privacy protections and Web site simplicity in its ratings. The survey found that 29% of the financial firms rated didn't respond to online inquiries.
"One of the reasons we are doing this research is to point out to companies their deficiencies,'' said Thorsten Ganz, the consulting firm's vice president of research. "You don't treat your online customers like second-class citizens.'' The financial services firm that received the highest score in the survey was the asset-management firm Franklin Resources ( BEN). Pulling up the rear was Zions Bancorporation ( ZION), a regional lender in the western U.S.