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BofA's Moynihan calls for renewed focus on customers

Bank of America Corp Chief Executive Officer Brian Moynihan looks on during the Charlotte Chamber's Economic Outlook Conference in Charlotte
Bank of America Corp Chief Executive Officer Brian Moynihan looks on during the Charlotte Chamber's Economic Outlook Conference in Charlotte

By Rick Rothacker

(Reuters) - Bank of America Corp must focus on improving customer service as it moves past its crisis-era problems, CEO Brian Moynihan said in a letter sent to employees, signaling one of his strategies for boosting revenue at the bank.

The letter, mailed to the homes of nearly 270,000 employees worldwide and seen by Reuters, says employees need to make it easier for customers to do business with the company, which has fared poorly in U.S. customer satisfaction surveys.

Bank of America posted the lowest score among four large U.S. banks in a report last month by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, and was the only large bank whose score had not matched or eclipsed pre-crisis levels.

Giving an example of how to improve customer service, Moynihan says in the letter that customer call centers should provide the same "problem-solving approach" to helping customers as the bank's Merrill Lynch financial advisers and U.S. Trust private bankers, which work with wealthier clients. The letter also highlights efforts to provide more clear communications with customers and initiatives to put investment specialists and mortgage loan officers in branches.

Bank of America's image has taken a beating in the past few years, including a backlash in 2011 over an aborted plan to charge a $5 monthly debit card fee. Many of its mortgage troubles stem from its 2008 acquisition of subprime lender Countrywide Financial.

Last year, Bank of America put its advertising account up for review as part of an effort to show it was a "new day" at the bank, according to a document sent to the agencies. The bank selected a team at WPP Plc to craft a new marketing push for the bank, which is likely to debut later this year.

These steps are crucial for Moynihan, who in his fourth year as CEO is coming under increasing pressure to show investors and analysts that the bank can boost profits amid new regulations and low interest rates. He has spent most of his time as CEO focusing on cleaning up the mistakes of his predecessors, including billions of dollars of losses from mortgages.

Bank of America this month reported a 63 percent decline in fourth-quarter profits after taking more than $5 billion in mortgage-related charges. But the bank is beginning to put its mortgage woes behind it, shifting the focus to growing revenues.

The letter doesn't identify any new initiatives or ways of measuring customer service, but puts renewed emphasis on Moynihan's long-running goal of focusing the company on consumer, business and institutional customers.

A companywide event on Thursday will kick off the new customer service push, according to the letter, which did not have further details about the event. Employees will also have meetings with top company executives in coming months. A Bank of America spokesman declined to comment on the letter.

(Reporting By Rick Rothacker in Charlotte, N.C.; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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