Research carried out in the first quarter of 2003 by Direct Excellence shows E&L maintaining its top spot for lowest price with 1st Quote entering the top ten in second place.

Scottish Pet Insurance offered the lowest excesses, with NFU close on its heels.

The balance between low price and high excess has narrowed, with no less than seven of the top ten companies performing well in both tables.

On the service front, Scottish Pet Insurance performed well, being the quickest to connect callers to agents and also keeping call times to a minimum. In the latter category however, it had to give best to Sainsbury's Bank which took top place.

While motor and home insurance are seen as obligatory, pet insurance is very much discretionary. But do providers really understand the motivation of the consumer - is it the love of the animal or the fear of being hit with a sudden expense?

Research indicates that many companies are falling between the two stools of product quality and price. With this sector of the market on the increase, opportunities abound for those organisations that clearly differentiate - with a strong marketing message reaching right through the call centre to the customer.

The table shows four of the numerous metrics tested and measured.

Analysis provides executives with objective information that enables them to improve bottom line performance.

To find out how your organisation can improve service levels and reduce costs, log on to
www.directexcellence.com or email andya@directexcellence.co.uk.