Ipswich, Mass. - In a report that analyzed 47 health care, life and health, and property & casualty insurer Web sites, the insurance industry slipped slightly in its Customer Respect Index (CRI), according to The Customer Respect Group, Inc., an Ipswich, Mass., research and consulting firm that focuses on how corporations treat their online customers. The findings, from its Fourth Quarter 2005 Online Customer Respect Study of Insurance firms, represent the fifth such study conducted on insurers.

The study measures and analyzes corporate performance from an online customer's perspective. It assigns a CRI rating for each company. The CRI is a qualitative and quantitative in-depth analysis and independent measure of a customer's experience when interacting via the Internet.

By interviewing a representative sample of the adult Internet population, and by analyzing and categorizing more than 2,000 corporate Web sites across a spectrum of industries, The Customer Respect Group has identified the attributes that together measure the online customer experience.

Overall, the industry's CRI rating dropped from 6.1 in the second quarter to 5.9. This contrasts with the trend of slow but steady improvements being made in most industries.

Property & Casualty had the best sector average with 6.2, followed by Life & Health on 5.9 and Health Care Plans with a disappointing 5.4.

Select Findings

The insurance industry remains the only industry sector evaluated with no Web site reaching the standard of excellent, noted the report. The insurance industry showed little or no improvement over the last study and in many key areas fell behind other industry sectors. For example, the industry failed to response to 26% of e-mail inquiries compared to an "ignore rate" of 16% for financial services. While the quality of the responses improved slightly, the speed of responses decreased, resulting in just 16% of e-mails responded to in a helpful manner and within 24 hours. Especially poor were the health care plans, which ignored more than half of the e-mail inquiries.

Insurance firms are also seen lacking in the area of privacy. For example, only 13% of companies provide privacy policies with a good structure that allows easy access to key information. This is nine percentage points below the 2004 average figure. It is also a concern that 34% of insurance companies share data with business partners or third parties without explicit permission from customers, compared to 24% of all companies in 2004. This may be higher still with 11% of companies with unclear policies toward data sharing. The lack of structure and clarity also contrasts with the trend of greater transparency demonstrated by other industries. Over the last four reports, there has been a steady decline in transparency, or clarity of policy, demonstrated by insurance companies.

The most consistent company is Progressive, which topped the list for the past three reports.

The leading 10 companies in the study are:

1. The Progressive Corporation

2. American International Group

3. Kaiser Permanente

4. TIAA_CREF

5. Safeco Corporation

6. Liberty Mutual Insurance Group

7. New York Life Insurance

8. The First American Corporation

9. LandAmerica Financial Group

10. Thrivent Financial for Lutherans

"The insurance industry seems stuck in a dilemma of whether to, or how to improve customer-friendly policies," said Terry Golesworthy, president of The Customer Respect Group. "The industry has made the least progress of all major customer-focused industries. Moreover, companies continue to share information with third parties at a far higher rate. Our strong recommendation is that to avoid customer defections, insurers pay stronger attention to these issues."

Source: The Customer Respect Group

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Digital Insurance content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access