One year after the depths of the worst financial crisis in half a century, Americans are more likely to say their financial institutions are doing what’s best for them, according to the seventh annual customer advocacy rankings by Forrester Research, Inc. (Nasdaq: FORR). Based on a survey of more than 4,500 consumers, the customer advocacy rankings rate 46 banks, investment firms, and insurance companies in the US. As it has every year, USAA topped the Forrester rankings. And while consumer trust in financial firms has moved off the historic lows from last year, the positive sentiment is not evenly distributed: The largest US banks dominate the bottom of the rankings.

“Forrester’s research continues to point to the significance of customer advocacy — the perception by customers that a firm does what’s best for them, not just what’s best for its own bottom line,” said Forrester Research Vice President and Principal Analyst Bill Doyle. “Each year, our data shows that customers who rate their firms high on customer advocacy are more likely to consider their firms for additional products. Customers who rate their firms low on customer advocacy are most likely to say they intend to switch firms in the next year.”

Underscoring the fact that customer trust is inching back up, 13 firms saw their scores go up by more than five percentage points in the past year. As a group, insurers bounced back higher than banks and investment firms. Customer rankings for super-regional banks also improved significantly from last year. Large banks took up the bottom seven spots in the rankings, and wealth management firms as a group had the worst customer advocacy ratings overall.

Here are the top 10 rated firms in Forrester’s 2010 customer advocacy rankings:

  1. USAA (insurance)
  2. A credit union
  3. An independent insurance agent
  4. USAA (banking)
  5. An independent financial advisor
  6. AAA
  7. State Farm
  8. A regional or local bank
  9. Aflac
  10. GEICO

Forrester’s customer advocacy rankings help Marketing & Strategy professionals in the financial services industry benchmark their performance according to a key driver of retention and deeper customer relationships. The full rankings are included in the Forrester report “Customer Advocacy 2010: How Customers Rate US Banks, Investment Firms, And Insurers,” which is available to select Forrester clients.