Insurance Post

The customer is number one

Many insurers claim to put customer needs at the heart of their business strategies, however, health insurer WPA's consumer satisfaction objectives go that step further, writes Leigh Jackson.

Based on a mantra that aims to "treat all customers as they hope to be treated themselves", WPA has put a number of policies in place over the last few years that have kept policyholders satisfied and enabled them to save money.

The company believes in a proactive approach to customer care and allows its policyholders to have an input into the running of the business. Many of its schemes are based on a shared responsibility with customers; policyholders pay a proportion of their claims up to an agreed annual maximum while the non-profit insurer reinvests its surplus into schemes. This policy has meant that the company has been able keep medical inflation below 5% over the last five years, with the benefits passed onto the customer.

WPA has also taken steps to speed up the claims process for its customers. For instance, it has a web-based claims system that supports voice over internet protocol, allowing consumers to start the claims process online.

In addition, the insurer believes that constraints to medical treatment slow the process down and so its customers are welcome to seek their treatment wherever they see fit, not where WPA has designated by way of agreements with private medical houses.

For its corporate customers, WPA offers the opportunity to take advantage of the government's National Health Service top-up scheme, a service that has become integral to a number of companies. Larger firms" usually with more than 400 members of staff" can also use WPA systems to create their own policies, sometimes at a reduction of up to 30% in cost.

All these initiatives have translated into a speedier claims process that allows WPA to settle the majority of claims within seven days. It is so confident that its system works that, if it does not meet this timescale, it will pay a financial penalty.

As well as measuring performance by timescale, WPA benchmarks the satisfaction of its consumers with a monthly evaluation and monitoring scheme to maintain the highest standards.

The company takes complaints very seriously and its approach has had a significant impact on the business. Once a complaint has been referred to the Financial Ombudsman Service, WPA will continue paying the claim on the understanding that, if the claim is ruled in WPA's favour, the policyholder will repay the compensation. The insurer is also happy to publish details of complaints made against it.

No complaints

The results speak for themselves: last year, no complaint referred to the FOS was adjudicated against WPA. In fact, the ombudsman has not adjudicated against the company since 1996.

The insurer's customer retention rates of 93% for 2008 reveal just how happy they are with the organisation and its policies. Further testament to the satisfaction of customers is WPA's referral rate: in 2008, approximately 20% of the company's new individual customers came directly from recommendations of happy policyholders.

As a reflection of the firm's achievements, this February it became the first UK insurer to gain British Standard Business Continuity accreditation.

WPA's consistent efforts to ensure that consumers are at the very heart of its policies also impressed the judges and, in a hard-fought category, they saw fit to present the company with the Customer Care Award 2009.

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