The worst decline in customer satisfaction with telephone services is among insurance providers, a new survey shows.

Out of 15 sectors surveyed, there was an almost 50% drop in satisfaction levels in insurance, says the poll, conducted by The Henley Centre for BT and Siemens.

In 1996, 15% of insurance providers were rated excellent. By 1999, this figure had fallen to only 8%.

Only two industry sectors – clothes retailers and supermarkets – showed an increase in satisfaction.

Customers reported experiences with so-called interactive voice response systems (where you choose options via the telephone keypad) that left them ‘frustrated and unhappy'.

The study – From teleculture to e-culture – also found that switching exclusively to the internet is not the answer for those organisations that find it hard to build customer loyalty conducting business over the phone.

Almost half of web shoppers still want the option of speaking to a live operator on some occasions. And it showed online customers do not trust new internet-originated brands as much as high street names.

Half the most trusted sites in the UK are ‘' and there is an overwhelmingly positive response to communicating with companies by email.

The internet is seen as the most effective way to complain compared to letter, telephone or face to face.

Phil Jones, business consultant manager at Siemens ProCenter, said: “Whether you're a dot-com or a high street brand you still need to communicate with your customers in the way they demand, be that internet, telephone, post or a combination thereof.”