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Which Insurer Do Customers Trust Most?

The Temkin Group just released the results of its 2011 Trust Ratings, based on a poll of 6,000 U.S. consumers about 143 companies across 12 industries, and readers may be shocked to see an insurer in the number-one spot.

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Using the rationale that "It's hard to build any type of relationship without trust," customer experience researcher The Temkin Group asked 6,000 U.S. consumers to rate how they trust 143 companies from 12 different industries. Perhaps surprisingly, an insurance company turns out to be the most trusted name in America; much less surprisingly, it turns out to be San Antonio-based USAA. USAA was also the only insurance company in the study's top 25, that is if you don't count "health plans." In fact, a health insurer, TriCare - another military affinity group company - made the top ten.

I'm inclined to dispute Temkin's rationale, believing that all sorts of relationships can be built without trust, including some the most passionate - or at least most obsessive - ones. The course of true love never did run smooth, as Shakespeare wrote, and Apple still managed to make number 48 out of 143 companies on The Temkin Group's list. However, that's a story for another day.

USAA may have expanded its membership in recent years, but the military affinity group financial services company still aims at not only a select customer base, but a characteristically loyal one as well. Nevertheless, USAA provides an example to insurers, as it does to companies in other industries, with its long-standing focus on providing a compelling customer experience on an anytime/anywhere basis. Sure, it helps to focus your efforts when your customers are somewhere in the Indian Ocean on an aircraft carrier, or at an airfield in Guam, or a hillside in Afghanistan. But today everybody should aim at treating their customers as if they were similarly far flung.

USAA took the top position as an insurance company, but it was also the highest recognized credit card company, taking the number 27 spot overall. USAA was not the top bank, but it took third place, after Regions (Birmingham, Ala.) and "a credit union."

The Temkin Group arrived at its rankings by doing the following:

- Asking [consumers] to rate their levels of trust. Consumers were asked how much they trust a particular company to meet their needs. Responses were on a seven-point scale from (1) do not trust at all to (7) completely trust.

- Analyzing data for companies with at least 100 respondents. While consumers rated many companies, we limited our analysis to the 143 companies for which we had responses from at least 100 consumers.

- Calculating the overall ratings. The Temkin Trust Rating for each company is calculated by taking the percentage of consumers that selected '6' or '7' and subtracting the percentage that selected '1,' '2,' or '3.'

Retail companies fared well in Temkin's top 10 trusted companies:

1. USAA/insurance

2. Amazon/retail

3. Costco/retail

4. Edward Jones/investment

5. Hyatt/hotels

6. Sam's Club/retail

7. TriCare/health plans

8. Kohl's/retail

9. Walgreens/retail

10. Lowe's/retail

Along with USAA, State Farm (30) and Kaiser Permanente (52) were cited as outperforming their industries (insurance and health plans, respectively). Liberty Mutual and MetLife were the only other insurers in the top half of the rankings. Insurance/health plan under-performers included Farmers, Anthem and Cigna. Perhaps Aetna, which also scored quite low, at the 116 mark, and Cigna, very near the bottom at 138, can benefit from their respective Youmanity and GO YOU technology-powered customer-centricity initiatives.

Among industries, insurance averaged an "okay" ranking, which turns out to be pretty good by current customer expectations, placing insurance in the top third of the 12 industries considered. Only three other industries averaged above insurers: hotels ("okay"), investment firms (low end of "strong), and the most trusted industry, retailers. Airlines lagged insurers in the "okay" category, followed by "weak" showings by PC makers, wireless carriers, banks, health plans and credit card issuers. ISPs and TV service providers were the least trusted industries, ranking "very weak."

Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio

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