Ipswich, Mass. - When it comes to the larger issues of Web site usability, communication and trust, Progressive and GEICO lead the way, according to consumers answering a survey for the Customer Respect Group (CRG), an international research and consulting firm that focuses on how corporations treat their online customers. This marks the fourth study in a row in which Progressive is ranked at the top. The Ipswich, Mass., firm released findings from its second quarter 2007 Online Customer Respect Study of the Automobile Insurance Industry.  The study evaluated the Web sites of a representative sample of auto insurance companies. Using a common set of criteria, it analyzed corporate performance from an online customer's perspective. A directly comparable customer respect index (CRI) is provided 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, reports CRG. Comprising six sub-indices that factor into three meta-concepts identified by customers as their critical concerns when using Web sites, the CRI includes:  * Site Usability - How usable is the site to a wide range of users? This includes simplicity (ease of use) and attitude (accessibility).  * Communication - How willing is the company to engage in a one-on-one communication to answer specific questions? This includes responsiveness (quality of e-mail replies - both speed and helpfulness -- response tone and other communication methods).  * Trust - Can this site be trusted with your personal data? This includes transparency (clarity and comprehensiveness of privacy policies), Principles (respect for data privacy, cookie explanations) and privacy (respect for data privacy, clarity and comprehensiveness of privacy policies). The average rating for the industry was 5.4 on the 10-point CRI scale. This score represents an improvement since the last report, notes CRG, primarily in the area of privacy policy transparency and responsiveness to e-mails. As a result, auto insurers have moved up to the mid-range of all industries from the bottom quartile previously. The industry provides better and more concise information about policies and practices.  GEICO and Progressive tied to lead the table, marking the fourth study in a row in which Progressive came out on top. GEICO showed improvement from its fourth place spot in the previous evaluation. American Family showed the most improvement overall from the previous study.
Additionally, auto insurers continue to show a strong commitment to their customers by making sites accessible and usable to many different types of users. A higher number of e-mails were responded to, an area in which the industry was especially poor in the last report.  “There has been an improvement in the industry, specifically in the willingness to engage with the customer one-on-one, but this is inconsistent across the industry,” says CRG president Terry Golesworthy. "We see some companies starting to view customer respect and interaction as critical to driving more business through the Web site, while other companies are struggling to integrate their Web sites into stan ard business practices." The study found that most auto insurers are quick to reply to e-mails and tend not to ignore queries, but don't always fully answer questions. This may be because insurers prefer to channel queries through agents, a theory supported by the continued high proportion of auto insurers that continue not to offer a means for visitors to communicate online.  Replies to e-mails were generally quick, but not always helpful. Some 74% of e-mails were answered within 24 hours (30% more than the comparable all-industry figure), but only 43% of replies fully answered the questions (35%below the all-industry figure). Twice the average proportion (14% versus 7%) of auto insurers did not offer a means to communicate online. The top scoring companies in responsiveness were Progressive, American Family and Geico.  Auto insurance companies, while improving, still need to explain more clearly their use of personal data supplied online. More than twice the all-industry average of auto insurers were unclear about data sharing while 27% did not clarify their e-mail marketing practices (three times the all-industry figure). Of the companies that did explain their policies clearly, only 36% stated that they did not share personal data. However, only 42% of those that re-use personal data allow visitors to opt out from marketing programs, versus the all-industry figure of 79%. These privacy issues are of particular concern given that auto insurers gather above average amounts of personal data from site visitors. Leading the field for clarity and openness were AllState and Nationwide, whereas best policies for customers were from Liberty Mutual and AIG Direct.  Overall site usability lags behind most industries and a greater degree of variation was recorded between the best and worst sites. The most usable sites were Erie and Progressive, while the best support for accessibility was USAA.  A full scorecard including the CRI scores for the hotel companies reviewed is available from The Customer Respect Group at (978) 834.6700 or visit www.customerespect.com 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