Customer satisfaction with the goods and services that Americans buy remained strong in the fourth quarter of 2009, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), produced by ACSI LLC. The same doesn’t hold true for the property/casualty insurance industry. While the full index, which measures buyer satisfaction of 200 companies in 44 industries and government agencies, is largely unchanged (dipping 0.1%), the P&C industry declined 1.2% to an ACSI score of 80 (on a 100-point scale).

The decline is not indicative of all P&C insurers. State Farm is on top at 82, a 3% improvement, followed closely by GEICO (+1% to 81) and Progressive (+1% to 80). The drop in ACSI for property/casualty insurance, as a whole, is driven by a 3% decline for smaller insurers, which have faced a more negative reaction to premium increases.

The life insurance industry's index improves 1.3% to 79. Among life insurers, Northwestern Mutual and New York Life lead the category, rising 4% each to 81 and 80, respectively.

The finance industry—including insurance and banking—improves slightly, up 1.4% to 77.1. Health insurers make the largest gain, up 2.7% to an ACSI score of 75, led by improvements for UnitedHealth Group (+14% to 72) and Aetna (+8% to 70). Even though healthcare costs continue to rise, the pace of price increases has slowed.

The ACSI, which was founded at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, is a national economic indicator of customer evaluations of the quality of products and services available to household consumers in the United States. It is updated each quarter with new measures for different sectors of the economy replacing data from the prior year.

“Similar to the decline ACSI has seen, we recently conducted a survey of online consumer behavior that found that a staggering 42% of those who conducted online insurance transactions still received error messages—the highest of any of the verticals we surveyed, including banking, online shopping and travel,” John Dawes, VP, Product Marketing, Management and Strategy at Tealeaf told INN. “More companies are conducting business in the online channel than ever before, but the percent of consumers across industries who are still experiencing online transaction problems, at 80%, remains high. Focusing on a seamless online customer experience is the best step property/casualty insurance companies can take to improve overall customer satisfaction in the coming years.”

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