NU Online News Service, March 28, 2005, 3:45 p.m. EST

TIAA-CREF shows a lot of R-E-S-P-E-C-T to customers, an industry consulting firm concludes.[@@]

Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association-College Retirement Equity Fund, New York, was the top-ranked life insurer in the way it treats online customers, according to the Online Customer Respect Study conducted in the first quarter of 2005 by the Customer Respect Group, Boston.

The study analyzed insurers’ online performance from the point of view of computer users visiting their Web sites.

Sites were ranked on simplicity, responsiveness, privacy protection, customer focus, openness and honesty, and other factors.

Out of a possible 10 points, the average consumer response index by both life-health and property-casualty insurers was 6.1, up from 5.9 in the fourth quarter of 2004, CRG says.

In the life-health field, TIAA-CREF scored 7.1, followed by Farmers Insurance Group, 6.7; MetLife Inc., 6.7; New York Life Insurance Co., 6.6; and CUNA Mutual Group, 6.4.