Ageas leads the way in an insurance market that is unrecognisable from a decade ago. RIAS is a very successful provider of car, home, travel and pet insurance to the over-50s.
Their customer acquisition and retention rates are among the best in the business and, in January this year, they were awarded ‘Recommended Provider’ status by Which? the consumer magazine. Great results, especially in the context of a UK insurance market that’s unrecognisable from just 15 years ago.
Comparison websites have become as well known as insurance companies and their TV advertising budgets are almost equal. In the last decade, by making price the biggest issue, most insurers and intermediaries have actively encouraged customer disloyalty. And many of the brands we once believed in have gone, to be replaced as insurance providers by famous names from the retail sector – Tesco and Kwik-Fit, for example.
So how have RIAS bucked this trend to commoditisation?
The superior number-crunching skills of their underwriters? The fact that they’re part of Ageas Group and can exploit its economies of scale when buying cover? No, the reason RIAS give for their success is simple and straightforward: they know their customers. Really know them.
RIAS contact centre advisors aren’t hounded to make hundreds of calls a day, because when you’re speaking to an older person, you need time to talk about the weather, the grandchildren, the cat. When planning direct marketing campaigns, RIAS know that mail means mail – from the postman, through the letterbox, in an envelope. And if there’s a free Parker pen on offer, so much the better.
And when the time comes for policy renewal, they know there’s no point in trying for a big hike in premiums because most people actually get shrewder with the passing years.
“The objective is to know our customers as well as their favourite corner shopkeeper,” says Andy Watson, Managing Director, Retail, Ageas UK. “We aim to win their trust and be perceived as their personal specialist in insurance. Our slogan Insurance that gets better with age isn’t just a clever line. It means every one of the 1,000 people in RIAS aims to get better and better at meeting our customers’ needs and exceeding their expectations.”
And that goes double when things go wrong. Friendly call centre folk cut no ice if a claim is refused or an assessor takes too long to turn up, so RIAS have claims processes that are designed for older customers who may be more distressed than the rest of us by an accident or burglary.
This determined focus on their audience extends to RIAS’s recruiting policies. Says Andy Watson, “We want people with the right priorities and a strong customer service background. Insurance experience is not important – technicalities can be taught but attitudes are intrinsic.”
RIAS has strengthened its leadership team through the appointment of an Operations Director with the help of Deborah Cooper of Warren Partners, whose approach matches that of RIAS. Deborah looks for the right attitudes and high achievement in a customer context. This appointment brings market-leading customer operations experience from a major international mobile phone retailer, for example.
“RIAS is an attractive prospect for candidates, especially when they hear about Ageas Group’s ambition and the company’s success in its niches, coupled with the fact that it’s a real business with real expertise and not just a brand,” says Deborah. “We’re able to give prospective candidates great insight into the culture and business strategy at RIAS and our understanding improves all the time, thanks to our close, longstanding relationship with the business. It gets better with age, you might say!”
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