Bank of America's Secret Weapon

Apparently, Bank of America (NYS: BAC) is much more than its customer service faux pas.

The bank felt some heat over its aborted $5 monthly debit card fee and its recent untenable requirements -- since reversed -- for customers in Sandy's path to receive fee waivers. However, in a recent report issued by research and consulting firm Celent, the bank has received top scores for new customer assistance at branch locations, as well as for being well-versed in the nuances of mobile banking.

In fact, B of A did so well it earned the firm's XCelent Service Award - not bad, considering that 11 other banks were involved in the study. Could this be part of the grand plan to boost Bank of America's bottom line?

Bank of America bests other big and regional banks
The research firm sent undercover employees into the branch locations of several big banks to open bank accounts, much as a new customer would, and gauged the bank's handling of new accounts. The researchers found that B of A has the most extensive new-customer orientation, reviewing items such as savings accounts, credit cards, mortgages, and investment products. These reviews were not cursory, either. Celent found that the bank's personnel went into detail about each of these services, even demonstrating how to use debit cards at one of the bank's ATM machines.

B of A got high marks for promoting mobile banking at its branches, as well. This is not surprising, since the bank has long been a frontrunner in this respect. This past summer, the bank released spanking-new mobile banking apps for both iOS and Android smartphones and tablets. This last bit is noteworthy, since many banks don't include tablets in their mobile applications -- and this type of banking is becoming more and more popular.

While B of A hogged the spotlight, the study noted that others shone, too. SunTrust (NYS: STI) was given special mention, not only for the thoroughness with which they explained banking services, but also for their down-to-earth advice concerning everyday finances. BB&T (NYS: BBT) also fared well, putting selling pressure aside in order to concentrate on the customer's needs. Along with Bank of America, the researchers noted that Fifth Third (NAS: FITB) and US Bank (NYS: USB) also excelled at explaining mobile banking options to new customers.

One Fool's take
Even as Bank of America focuses on lowering costs by cutting back on branch locations, it's keeping the quality of service at the remaining locations very high. This is notable, since studies have proved that customers are still very fond of the branch banking model -- and banks make pots of money from those branches, as well.

Interestingly, B of A seems quite aware of what customers want, such as branch banking and mobile options, and it often delivers quite well where it counts. As the bank continues with Project New BAC, it needs to keep in mind that trimming too close to the bone won't help bolster profits -- and that giving the customer what he or she wants certainly will.

As you can see, when B of A does it right, it really towers over its peers. To learn more about the most-talked-about bank out there, check out our in-depth company report on Bank of America. The report details Bank of America's prospects, including three reasons to buy and three reasons to sell. Just click here to get access.

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Fool contributor Amanda Alix has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America and Fifth Third Bancorp. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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