The ACSI score for the life insurance sector increased 2.4 percent to an ACSI benchmark of 83.

A key indicator of customer satisfaction with the life insurance sector edged up in the third quarter, new research shows.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), an independent benchmark of customer satisfaction, is based on a survey of 70,000 customers about the products and services they use the most. The research results are used to determine customer satisfaction with more than 230 companies, 43 industries and 10 economic sectors, as well as more than 100 services, programs and websites of federal government agencies.

The ACSI score for the life insurance sector gained for a second consecutive year, increasing 2.4 percent to an ACSI benchmark of 83, a level above that of the national ACSI aggregate score.

The report adds that small life insurance companies performed better than large insurers in the survey. The aggregate score for small insurers (among them John Hancock and Lincoln Financial) increased 3 percent to an ACSI benchmark of 83.

Customer satisfaction with New York Life tops the large companies: ACSI pegs the company’s score at 80 — unchanged for the third consecutive year. Northwestern Mutual, Prudential and Metlife, received lower scores, each declining one percent to 78, 78 and 77, respectively.

The following are ACSI scores for these and other large insurers in 2012 and 2013:

Company

2012

2013

% Change

Life insurance

81

83

2.5%

All others

81

83

2%

New York Life

80

80

0%

Northwestern Mutual

79

78

-1%

Prudential

79

78

-1%

MetLife

78

77

-1%

 

“On average, customers view life insurance agents and representatives to be courteous and helpful (ACSI benchmark of 86) and consider policies to be approved quickly and efficiently (87),” the report states. “According to their customers, life insurers provide a variety of policy types that meet different household needs (82).

“They [also] make it reasonably simple for policyholders to understand how insurers arrive at the premiums they charge,” the report adds. “Website satisfaction is above average (81).”

The survey observes, however, that life insurers’ performance is subpar in respect to the availability and range of policy discounts, including health rewards and discounts for combining different types of policies. Policy discounts earn only an ACSI benchmark score of 74.