The vast majority of consumers said they were satisfied with customer service in the financial services industry, according to fourth-quarter data from Zendesk, which provides web-based customer support to a variety of industries.

The financial services sector tied for fourth place with non-profits in Zendesk's analysis of customer service satisfaction, with 93% of consumers reporting they were happy with how a problem was resolved.

Zendesk collects data on customer service results across 19 industries, including retail, social media, travel and entertainment. The real estate industry earned top marks with a satisfaction rating of 96%. The global benchmark, an average of scores across industries, was 86%.

"One thing that's very clear: an immediate response matters more than anything," Sam Boonin, vice president of product engagement for Zendesk, told American Banker in an interview on Friday.

"Companies or industries that are very good at responding to inquiries quickly tend to do better at satisfaction," he adds.

Zendesk typically works with small and regional banks, credit unions and mortgage companies, as well as financial services startups, according to Boonin.

The customer service business "is evolving very rapidly," Zendesk chief operating officer Zack Urlocker told American Banker during the Friday interview. "We are seeing the more innovative, smaller companies come up with interesting techniques. That puts competitive pressure on larger organizations."

The financial services industry had an average first-response time to a customer problem of 28.6 hours, markedly faster than the benchmark of 32.8 hours.

Another factor is being in the right place at the right time. Increasingly, that means engaging in social media, including Facebook and Twitter.

"Being able to have a rich website for customer self-service, and support for customers through social channels make a big difference in satisfaction," Boonin says.

The fallout from a bad consumer experience can be dramatic.

"Today, when a customer has a positive or negative experience, they take it to the Internet. They post it on Facebook and Twitter…and expect companies to respond to them," Boonin says.

Zendesk reported that 82% of Americans said they had stopped doing business with a company because of bad service. The company estimates that poor customer service costs businesses $338.5 billion annually worldwide.