Edward B. Rust
One State Farm Plaza
Bloomington, IL 61710-0001

Dear Mr. Rust,

Having been a multiple policyholder for several years, I have always delighted in the knowledge that State Farm is the most customer-focused insurance company with which I have ever dealt. Whereas other insurers seem to profit by clawing pennies from their customers and making refunds more difficult than Bar Exams, State Farm has always been a model of efficiency. Cancel a policy in mid-run and, as certain as the sunrise, you get your refund check in days, not months without a single penny forfeit. In the sea of counterexamples, itís a pleasure to watch State Farm flourish by accurately pricing its risk, not by abusing its customers. Thus it pains me greatly to be writing this nitpicky complaint letter.

It is inexcusable that a company of State Farmís financial strength has more web weakness than any company with which I deal. Normally, such blatant disregard for oneís online presence would be sufficient for me to take my business elsewhere (I consider such disregard a personal affront but Iím admittedly a little biased) but I simply cannot give up all the other benefits the relationship affords.

How can it be that your payment process was down for a week before someone fixed it? How is it possible that State Farm still uses JavaScript alerts (a huge annoying HCI no-no) to force agreement to terms and then loops through every line-item? Why was it that the system used to ask me for my first car and manager EVERY TIME Iíd log in? Iíve always accepted cookies and no other sites had problems. Itís not as though it stores bank info or that one can make changes without oneís agent. Was someone worried that an identity thief would pay my bill with their account? If a project manager on my staff delivered a web app as frail and buggy as your payment process I would make them work helpdesk for a week. The only way I can see these things and many others being overlooked is if none of your executives ever used the web site themselves and if you lack a Chief Technology Officer. Do you? If so, it is a shame. No company that still treats tech as a cost rather than profit center will long endure.

There was a time when websites were simply flashing neon signs: unidirectional, expensive and useless except to underline a businessís capacity for conspicuous waste. As standards evolved for arts like interface design and sciences like digital security, businesses began to see savings with every transaction performed online. I have opened bank accounts, refinanced mortgages and paid countless bills without a single phone call. And all of this functionality was provided flawlessly by companies with far less than $3 billion in profits. For a company of State Farmís resources, the payment process is an embarrassment to both the programming and HCI disciplines; more befitting the corner store whose web was built by kids who know a lot of programming but nothing of best practices.

Mr. Rust, itís time to empower the process by giving it the professional build it deserves, telling your internal geeks to get with it and letting your agents sell insurance without buying a helpdesk.

Sincerely,

Cyber Hooliganism
Mealschpeal; http://www.mealschpeal.com
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