Cambridge, Mass. — San Antonio-based United Services Automobile Association (USAA), and Bloomington, Ill.-based State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. beat out 12 other insurance-related companies when it comes to good customer experience. Forrester Research Inc. asked nearly 5,000 U.S. consumers about their interactions with a variety of companies to gauge the usefulness, usability and enjoyability of their experiences. Based on consumer responses, the Cambridge, Mass.-based research firm calculated the Customer Experience Index for 112 firms in nine industries—14 insurance-related companies.

The insurance industry as a whole can pat itself on the back—insurance-related companies came out near the top of the pack, just behind retailers and investment firms. Within the industry, five insurance-related companies ended up with “good” overall ratings: USAA (79%), State Farm (78%), Progressive (75%), Independent agents (75%) and Liberty Mutual (74%). The other nine insurers had “okay” ratings.

USAA, a financial services provider open only to the U.S. military community and their families, topped the list of two of the three categories: usefulness and ease of use. State Farm claimed the top spot in the third category: enjoyability. AIG received the lowest ratings in all three categories.

Technology is a cornerstone to an increasing percentage of the customer experiences, according to Bruce Temkin, VP and principal analyst at Forrester, and co-author of “Customer Experience Index Snapshot: Insurance Carriers.”

“Call center technologies increasingly provide phone reps with more tools to better serve customers, and more and more insurance interactions can be handed online,” he says. “In addition, business process applications enable more efficient handling of key customer-facing processes, such as application management and claims processing. But at the end of the day, the ability of these platforms to improve the customer experience comes down to how they are used.”

Temkin suggests insurers develop a more customer-centric approach in how they use and deploy these technologies, or it could go bad. “Great technology deployed without a good customer-centric mindset will most likely deliver a worse experience compared with poor technology deployed with a good customer-centric mindset,” he says.

Providing an enjoyable customer experience may seem difficult, given the nature of the insurance process, but Temkin says it is possible with the right approach. “The first step is to better understand customers—in what ways are experiences falling short? With that level of insight, insurers can then think about what they can do across a mix of training, process changes, new business rules and technology,” he says. “Sometimes it’s just about small things, such as adjusting the language on your Web site so that customers can understand what’s going on.”

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