With angry and mistrustful customers stung by the worst financial crisis in more than half a century, US financial services firms fell to their lowest rating ever in the sixth annual Customer Advocacy ranking by Forrester Research, Inc. (Nasdaq: FORR). Perennial standouts USAA and State Farm Insurance remain the highest-rated companies, former high-flyers Vanguard and Edward Jones slipped, and full-service brokerage firms like Morgan Stanley skidded toward the bottom of the rankings. The survey of more than 5,000 households was conducted in the second half of 2008.

Customer advocacy is the perception on the part of customers that financial services firms do what’s best for them, not just the firm’s own bottom line. Forrester’s on-going analysis demonstrates that customer advocacy drives retention and deepens customer relationships. Consumers who rate their firm high with regard to customer advocacy are more likely to save more, borrow more, and buy other products from that firm and are less likely to switch to another financial services company.

“Given the mistrust and anger that consumers currently have toward the financial services sector, customer advocacy has never been more relevant,” said Forrester Research Vice President and Principal Analyst Bill Doyle. “Customer advocacy has to be more than just a marketing message. Smart firms have used it as a guiding operating principle to win back the confidence of American consumers.”

Forrester’s 2009 Customer Advocacy rankings include more than 40 financial services firms. Only eight of these firms or independent representatives had more than half of their customers rate them high on customer advocacy:

  1. USAA
  2. Credit unions
  3. Independent financial advisors
  4. State Farm Insurance
  5. Independent insurance agents
  6. Progressive Casualty Insurance Company
  7. Regional or local banks
  8. GEICO

The full rankings are included in the Forrester report “Customer Advocacy 2009: How Customers Rate US Banks, Investment Firms, And Insurers,” which is currently available to Forrester clients and can be purchased directly at http://www.forrester.com/go?docid=47992.

This is the sixth consecutive year that USAA has finished near the top of the Customer Advocacy rankings. USAA Executive Vice President Wayne Peacock will be one of the keynote speakers at the Forrester Customer Experience Forum 2009, June 22-23, 2009, in New York. Customer advocacy — how it works and what firms need to do to earn customer advocacy online and through other channels — is the focus of a Forrester Workshop entitled Winning The Loyalty Of Financial Services Customers, which will be held June 24, 2009, in New York.