The Customer Respect Group, an international research and consulting firm that focuses on how corporations treat their customers online, today released the results of its Winter 2004 Online Customer Respect Study of insurance firms that rank among the countries largest 1000 companies.

Overall, Cincinnati Financial Corporation scored highest in the study, while Unitrin scored lowest.

The study is the only one to bring objective measure to the analysis of corporate performance from an online customer's perspective. It assigns a Customer Respect Index (CRI(TM)) rating to each company on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the highest achievable score. The Customer Respect Index is a qualitative and quantitative in-depth analysis and independent measure of a customer's online experience when interacting with companies via the Internet.

By looking at more than 1000 Web sites across a spectrum of industries in detail, The Customer Respect Group has determined 60+ different attributes that combine to create the entire online customer experience. These attributes have been grouped together and measured as indicators of Simplicity (ease of navigation), Privacy (respects customer privacy), Attitude (customer-focus of site), Transparency (open and honest policies), Responsiveness (quick and thorough responses to inquiries) and Principles (values and respects customer data). Combined they measure a company's overall Customer Respect.

Select Sector Comparisons

As a whole, results were comparable to the 2003 study although scores at the top were higher than in the past (CRI 9.6 vs. 9.1). Despite prior warnings regarding Responsiveness and Principles issues, however, poor scores in these attributes continue to plague the sector. While 93 percent of firms have privacy policies, 35 percent of these firms share data without permission from users. Some 37 percent of firms respond to only one-half of or no online inquiries. And while more than half of surveyed firms have Autoresponder technology, in which emails are automatically sent back to users to confirm the receipt of their inquiry and let them know when they should expect a response, 16 percent of the time no response was sent following an Autoresponder email.

"We are certainly cheered by the results of the top several companies in our survey," said Roger Fairchild, president of The Customer Respect Group. "But frankly we are concerned to note that so many of the nation's largest insurance companies are sharing personal data without permission and that responsiveness to online inquiries remains, at best, spotty. These firms need to strongly consider the connection between respectful Web sites and their ability to compete for new business and retain current customers."

The highest ranked organization within the sector was Cincinnati Financial Corporation at 9.6 (out of 10), while the lowest was Unitrin at 3.0. The sector's average was 6.8. Beyond these scores, the report conveys in great detail improvement opportunities for each company. The sector's Winter 2004 ranking is as follows:

Insurance Companies

Overall Score

1. Cincinnati Financial Corporation

9.6

2. Minnesota Life Insurance Company

9.3

3. American International Group, Inc.

8.8

4. Liberty Mutual Insurance Group

8.8

5. Pacific LifeCorp

8.7

6. Mutual of Omaha Insurance Companies

8.6

7. Principal Financial Group, Inc.

8.5

8. Phoenix Companies, Inc.

8.5

9. Erie Insurance Group     

8.4

10. Mass. Mutual Life Insurance Co.

8.3

11. American Family Mutual Insurance

8.2

12. CNA

8.1

13. Ohio Casualty Corporation

8.1

14. Selective Insurance Group

8.0

15. American National Insurance Co.

7.9

16. AFLAC, Inc.

7.8

17. MetLife Inc.

7.8

18. American Medical Security Group

7.6

19. UICI

7.6

20. StanCorp Financial Group Inc.

7.6

21. The First American Corp.

7.6

22. Conseco, Inc.

7.5

23. AmerUs Group Co.

7.5

24. The Progressive Corp.

7.4

25. Amica Mutual Insurance Co.

7.4

26. The Commerce Group,Inc.

7.4

27. Allmerica Financial Corp.

7.3

28. Jefferson-Pilot Corporation

7.3

29. OneAmerica Financial Partners, Inc.

7.3

30. MGIC Investment Corp.

7.3

31. UnumProvident Corp.

7.2

32. USAA

7.1

33. New York Life Insurance Co.

7.1

34. GEICO

7.1

35. Torchmark Corporation

7.1

36. Harleysville Mutual Insurance Co.

7.1

37. John Hancock Financial Services Inc.

7.1

38. Sentry Insurance Group

7.0

39. Protective Life Corporation

6.9

40. Guardian Life Insurance Co.

6.9

41. Mercury General Corp

6.7

42. Union Central Life Insurance Co.

6.6

43. LandAmerica Financial Group, Inc.

6.4

44. The Allstate Corporation

6.4

45. Safeco Corporation

6.3

46. State Farm Insurance Cos.

6.1

47. Markel Corporation

6.1

48. Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance

6.1

49. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co.

6.0

50. The MONY Group, Inc.

6.0

51. Factory Mutual Insurance Co.

6.0

52. Thrivent Financial for Lutherans

6.0

53. Radian Group, Inc.

5.9

54. Prudential Financial, Inc.

5.7

55. Fidelity National Financial Inc.

5.6

56. The St. Paul Companies, Inc.

5.6

57. Auto-Owners Insurance Group

5.5

58. Federated Mutual Insurance Co.

5.5

59. Knights of Columbus

5.1

60. Hartford Financial Services Group

5.1

61. Lincoln National Corporation

5.1

62. CUNA Mutual Group

5.0

63. MBIA, Inc.

5.0

64. Chubb Corporation

5.0

65. Stewart Information Services Corp.

4.9

66. American Financial Group, Inc.

4.8

67. W.R. Berkley Corporation

4.7

68. Teachers Ins. & Annuity Assoc. C.R.

4.6

69. Old Republic Life Insurance Co.

3.5

70. Unitrin

3.0

Source: Customer Respect Group

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