Bank fees. Few words evoke consumer vitriol faster. Dissatisfaction with escalating checking and ancillary fees for banking services is making competition for customer loyalty in retail banking especially high.

Research shows that great service can play a key role in customer retention throughout these changes in fee structures. In fact, among all businesses, banks have the highest correlation between customer experience and likelihood of switching businesses. Banks are also able to offset dissatisfaction with fees through other areas, namely problem resolution.

Consider that great customer service will not only generate a top-notch customer experience, but it can positively affect a bank's business and its bottom line. When done right, execution of a sound customer service strategy pleases customers, resulting in higher loyalty. Additionally, it delivers valuable business intelligence that can direct business strategy across many departments.

As competition to retain clientele increases due to the changing structure of consumer banking fees (commonplace for most banks after regulatory changes in the last few years,) banks should take a fresh look at their service strategy as a way to offset consumer angst and confusion. Abiding by these five golden rules of retail banking customer service can ensure you reap the benefits.

Place a premium on good, personalized service. Banking customer loyalty is sinking, and there is a perception that banks are just out to make a buck. Keep your customers from flocking to alternative financial services providers or other institutions by delivering a personalized customer experience. If you have avoided personalization in the service experience because you think it's too expensive, think again. New tools and technologies provide great ways to gain customer loyalty and provide your organization with critical data.

Continuous improvement of the customer experience is paramount. Too many organizations set their customer contact strategy and then forget about it. But the key to achieving and sustaining strong customer satisfaction is continuous improvement. A proactive, quantitative focus on improving customer satisfaction can drive loyalty, retention and growth factors across your customer base. Never stand still. Measure, analyze, improve. Then repeat.

Maintain continuity. In the age of information immediacy, managing customer service has gotten complicated. Your customers need the most up-to-date information precisely when and where they choose, or they won't be satisfied. They want to check balances on their mobile phones, move money without having to go into the bank or to an ATM and get answers to their questions quickly and easily. Technology offers businesses new and powerful ways to connect and facilitate these actions. But new technology will be worthless if brand, messaging and service aren't consistent across all channels, including mobile, web, email and social media.

Leverage customer service data beyond the service department. What other business process can boast a continuous consumer feedback loop, a cost-effective method to build customer loyalty and a mining center for business intelligence? These activities – and especially their results – should be shared throughout various departments of an organization, not just kept in the service arena. At a time when the financial services landscape is changing so rapidly, customer service feedback and data should be leveraged throughout the organization, including at the highest level where strategic corporate decisions are made.

Be proactive. Customer service should not be a reactive exercise. Communicating with customers proactively reduces the cost of managing inbound calls and increases customer satisfaction. Reminders about bill payments and card balances, tips about protecting debit or credit card security, or service updates can all be pushed out to consumers. Doing so creates more than good will; it improves the overall brand experience.

Retail banks are facing an uphill battle to retain customers amidst changing financial services trends incited by recent regulations. But bank customers report that their loyalty can by won with exceptional customer service, convenience, elimination of the sources of dissatisfaction and experiences that delight. Is your bank doing everything it can to keep customers? If not, adopt these golden rules right now and ensure your customer experience creates positive effects on your business and the bottom line.

Paul Logan is CEO of Contact Solutions, a provider of customer self-service solutions for the prepaid industry. He specializes in improving the customer experience and reducing customer service expenses for hundreds of large enterprises and government agencies.