Customer service has evolved from an important aspect of many companies business strategies to an imperative these days, especially, given the country’s financial woes, with many consumers scaling back their expenditures. To that end, Forrester asked 4,653 U.S. consumers about their customer service experiences with 92 companies across 14 industries—including insurance—in October 2009, and found that many of these companies have yet to receive the memo.

The Forrester report, “Rating Customer Service Experiences, 2010,” found that retailers (80% industry satisfaction rate) topped the list of industries providing superior levels of customer service, followed by hotels (79%) and parcel deliver/shipping firms (78%). Insurance providers (77%) rated 4th out of 14 industries, while health insurance plans (55%) ranked 11th. Internet providers ranked last (53%)

As for individual company rankings, USAA (89%) led the pack of insurers, followed by Liberty Mutual (86%), independent insurance agents (80%), and Farmers Insurance Group, Progressive and State Farm (all 78%). Nationwide Mutual Insurance (69%) ranked the lowest of the insurance companies. Kaiser (75%) was the top-rated health provider, followed by CIGNA (62%), while Aetna (44%) and United Healthcare (43%).

Some of the overarching trends noted by the report’s author, Robert Tempkin, are that seniors were found to give customer service the highest marks. In 10 of the 14 industries, seniors gave the highest scores. But conversely, Gen-Y’s were found to give customer service the lowest marks. In nine of the industries, Gen Y respondents gave customer service the lowest scores.