Cultivation of Customer Loyalty

Subject: Finance
Pages: 15
Words: 4578
Reading time:
18 min
Study level: Undergraduate

The Initial Literature Review

The Asian nations are growing very fast in terms of economy and are posing great competition for the western nations. Many economic sectors are improving their performance and are giving better services than before. Hong Kong being one of the fast-developing nations in Asia has established the most competitive insurance market in the region (OECD, 2009, P. 35). Hong Kong’s insurance industry has seen steady growth since the early 1990s and this has been fast-driven by the life insurance section (Athanassopoulos et al, 2001, p. 687). The main factors that have contributed to the growth of the insurance industry are: lack of state-subsidized services; no sponsored pension; relatively higher interest rates that are levied on the insurance services compared to the conventional banking services and the increasing elderly population have all resulted in the increased premium income of the Hong Kong’s life insurance market (Economy Watch, 2010, para. 3). Nonetheless, the industry has recently suffered some setbacks from the economic crises facing the whole world. The slowdown translated to problems of unemployment going up and decreased savings as well as the individual income (Verhoef & Donkers, 2001, p. 189).

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Studies reveal that Hong Kong also enjoys the highest insurance per capita spending in Asia. The rates at which the insurance services are penetrating are also very high compared to the rest of Asia (Berry, 1998, p. 23). The government has also played a part in the high rate of industry penetration and the increased market density, by increasing insurance awareness through campaigns among the customers. The market is likely to continue increasing in the future though at a slowed rate as a result of the slowed movement in life policies (Verhoef & Donkers, 2001, p. 189). Nonetheless, the sector will still be dominant in the economy. The non-life insurance is also expected to grow and even outperform life insurance.

Hong Kong’s Report on Insurance

For effective changes to take place, it is imperative that researchers utilize the latest changes and information that the industry has grown through. The report about Hong Kong’s insurance sector has been reviewed and the latest data is available concerning the claims, premiums, assets and insurance investments (Verhoef & Donkers, 2001, p. 189). There are forecasts to the future through 2012 that illustrate that the insurance sector will still rank among the competitive sectors in the economy.

Key insights show that the pre-eminence of Hong Kong as a major insurance provider in the region is still assured. The local consumers in the domestic market, both individual clients and organizations will benefit from the amount of competition that is seen on the market. It’s obvious even now that several world-class insurers offer excellent service to the clients (Dan, 2006, p. 121). The absolute amount of premiums is expected to increase in a very short span of time as the government is offering incentives to encourage savings through a scheme known as the Mandatory Provident fund. Still there are other opportunities for the insurers in Hong Kong as based on the market situation (Business Monitor International, 2010, para. 3).

Evident is that there is a scope to expand into the Chinese market. When the Closer Economic partnership (CEPA) is implemented, then it would mean that the insurance companies in Hong Kong could greatly benefit from the increased or expanded market into China (M2 Presswire, 2008, para. 2). It’s Less likely to be comprehended is the probability that Hong Kong would grow to become a major supplier of insurance services in China (Dan, 2006, p. 121).

The services offered by Hong Kong insurance sector are very conducive for business and the domestic market provides excellent setting for the insurance and re-insurers amidst global convergence trend among the financial service providers (Dan, 2006, p. 121). As a result, Hong Kong continues to attract the top insurance companies in the world. By the end of the fiscal year 1998, the industry had 4.1 billion US dollar Investments as FDIs. In 2004, the country had over 181 authorised insurers. Through 2007, the census and statistics department has indicated that the finance industry recipe increased by an overwhelming 100.1% and insurance saw a 41.8% increase. The first quarter of the fiscal year 2008, there was an increase of 12.5% of gross premiums and a net premium increase of 11.7%.

Since the Hong Kong market is more liberal, insurance firms are taking that advantage and the growth process is accelerated. There are many foreigners who have announced their plans to expand in Hong Kong and to take care of the development of the regional insurance market (Don, 2004, p. 68).

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Customer Loyalty

Now considering that the Hong Kong insurance market is very attractive for investors, the numbers of investors has increased considerably. This means that the customers have a variety of options to choose from, where to acquire services. The competition is very tight and to be able to stay in the market and compete with other firms including foreign firms, insurers have to be the best in the market (Buckinx et al, 2007, p. 32). A company has to ensure that it retains its customers and attract even more. This is a major problem for many managers since it is very hard to keep to terms with all the aspects of insurance that are on demand for by customers. Still many of these firms continue to improve their services by innovation and creativity. They realize that they can create services that are customer-based and focus the specific needs of their customers. This is the reason why quality and customer satisfaction is important in insurance (Buckinx et al, 2007, p. 32).

Many insurance firms in Hong Kong are now devising retention strategies to enhance customer loyalty for the benefit of the organizations. Many firms that have mastered the way to achieve loyalty have a leg up when it comes to competition (Buckinx et al, 2007, p. 32). Handling customers has been a challenge to Hong Kong insurers considering that the world suffered a financial crisis that adversely affected the economy of the nation and the whole world at large. This situation has presented both opportunities and threats that insurance industry has to deal with to improve operations. In order to be able to survive this test, insurers will have to deal with aggressive regulation that is anticipated and other issues in the market relating to financial situation of clients. Improvement in information technology and the impact of globalisation presents opportunities for improvement (John, 2003, p. 69).

Acquiring New Clients

One of the major problems that are facing the flooding insurance companies in Hong Kong is acquiring new customers. However, for so long the traditional means of increasing the client base by simply increasing the activities of the sales department have worked well, today it takes a lot more effort. The sales effort is based more on the quantitative outcomes (Don, 2004, p. 68). These are likely to focus the effort on success and achieve even more encouraging results.

To begin with, it is important that the insurers identify their clients and targets properly. A traditional sales and promotional means have been to increase the policy makers by targeting people that meet the set criteria. However, when efforts yield very little outcomes, this approach has failed (Andreassen & Lindestad, 1998, p. 9). This is the major setback. Sales usually get very difficult at some points and the company’s sales budget increases but with no positive returns.

Contrary to the traditional approach of marketing services, the insurance companies can venture into more sophisticated means, for instance data mining. This process helps the company analysts to refine the markets that will be focused on. For instance, the focus can be increased or the firms can concentrate on the permanent value. This means the proceeds that are expected from the customers for a very long time (Don, 2004, p. 68). To sharpen the focus, insurers need to make use of the advance data mining techniques that combine process of segmentation and produce predictive model for identifying clients in the groups (Andreassen & Lindestad, 1998, p. 9).

Several strategies can be employed by the insurers to ensure that they can be able to acquire new customers and build new customer loyalty in them. First they need to simplify their process of application and make underwriting short. This way, the insurers need to classify the inbound means of communicating (Shankar et al, 2003, p. 154). The numbers of ratios not take should be cut down. The process should be shifted from phone based to the web-based. Still, it has to take care of the entire communication mean when necessary so that recordings, emails, faxes, calls and texts can be attended to (Don, 2004, p. 68).

The many and lengthy administrative tasks should be trimmed. In this 21st century, it is no longer appropriate to use manually matched content with policy documents and put up with missing records and human mistakes (Peck, 2010, para. 3). Firms should strive to automate all documentation duties and all the processes ranging from data entry when registering to the process of underwriting and compensation (Verhoef & Donkers, 2001, p. 189). The process will easily handle problems in underwritten premiums, licensing, availability and geographical locations.

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The applications should be completed in actual fact rather than waiting to get information from third parties. Follow-ups will have to be done for the clients lagging and the web service configured to ensure that calls can be received (Shankar et al, 2003, p. 154). All the reports including medical reports, vehicle particulars and other documents can be easily accessed and used. The outbound information can also be automated so that they can be accessed through email or IVR.

Claims that are launched need to be processed quickly. The manual intake procedure is becoming outdated and automation makes things move faster. Fax, email, phone, and other online means of reporting have to be easier (Don, 2004, p. 68). The claims process has to be automated so that all the information that link to a certain claim file can be linked to it electronically and also be easier to locate. The process should be customised so that the existing workflows work to satisfy the customers. Insurance services tend to take a very long process in some industries. This is because the process has a lot of steps that have to be followed to meet the goals. However, to remain ahead of competition, an insurance firms need to shorten their process and offer the services in one-step (Andreassen & Lindestad, 1998, p. 9). The insureds should be kept updated on the changes and improvement that the company is making. This helps them to know what to do and avoid long process of inquiries and references.

Parallel and sub-processes should be eliminated and replaced with integrated platform that automates database look-ups and routing. The internet streamlines the way reports are collected from police, medical bills, pictures and adjuster reports. The field adjusters should also be kept at places that they can be accessed easily (Andreassen & Lindestad, 1998, p. 9). The management of these should be presence management whereby the necessary tasks can be done from the field like text, emailing, conferencing and so on.

Information should be stored safely. When dealing with disaster recovery, the platform is integrated and the content management is responsible for securing claims files, client requests and other confidential information (Andreassen & Lindestad, 1998, p. 9). There need to be electronic and manual back-ups for these documents as they are critical to the business.

Customer services have to be improved. The policyholder servicing should be efficient. The insurers in Hong Kong can adopt the one platform strategy that takes care of process automation, per integration, content managing and other procedures to the administrative system. The tasks are made much faster and the cost of administration is reduced. The management should continually assess the performance of the firm for improvements (Bloemer & Ruyter, 2006, p. 1374). It is important to analyse how the insured use the new process being implemented like the media services, also identify, and upgrade ant areas that are lagging in terms of satisfaction.

Retaining Clients

As the market experiences increased costs of acquisition, the Hong Kong insurance sector is starting to put more emphasis on the clients needs and consumer retention plans (Don, 2004, p. 68b). From experience, it is evident that customers with two policies from one company are more likely to renew the contract as opposed to those holding only a single policy. On the same note, customers with three policies are not likely to switch as opposed to those with one who can easily change the company (John, 2003, p. 69). If the insurers can be able to offer quantity discounts and package their services in bundles for their clients for instance home and the auto policies, the value of the services will increase and this would encourage customer loyalty. The probability of a customer switching for m the company will be reduced (Don, 2004, p. 68b).

A successful policy of retaining customers requires that there be an analysis of the data that the most convenient and proper level. This is the client level. Regrettably, Hong Kong insurance has been sluggish in this sector and has only focused on analysing the profitability of the policies’ levels. The process of data mining can help the insurance firms to be more accurate in determining the policies and services that they can profitably offer to their clients (Don, 2004, p. 68b). This technique will also help the companies to carry out the sequential market assessment on the customer segmentation (Binder & Ngai, 2009, p. 78). For instance, analysing the percentage of the clients that own new auto insurance services or determining those who have purchased the home insurance.

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The retention campaign should target the type of clients that are likely to change their services to another firm (Andreassen & Lindestad, 1998, p. 9). Database segmentation and the sophisticated techniques for modelling can help the analysts to be able to make more choices that are accurate for the target groups to be retained. The current policy owners that are likely to shift can be identified from the predictive model. Campaigns can then target these people for more positive outcome (John, 2003, p. 69).

The conventional model has been the logistic regression and the policy owners that the highest probability of shifting forms the target group. The process of identifying the target group can be improved by modelling the character of the customers (Bloemer & Ruyter, 2006, p. 1374). If the companies involve in more interaction terms, non-linear terms and the neural model for creating data on the switching probability, then the outcome can be more accurate. In addition, the decision tree model could offer more accurate data to identify the clients by segmentation of the market (Ruyter, et al, 1998, p. 436). Greater accuracy in getting the targeted group can decrease the expenses and has the possibility of improving the outcomes of the retention campaign.

Better campaign management is essential. Insurers should develop client relationships that will end up being long lasting in the insurance business. Many small firms are advantaged in this sector, as they are able to interact with their client on a more personal basis. Nonetheless, the organisations grow and when they are larger, then the marketing and sales management start thinking in terms of the product development and disregard the client relationship (Ruyter, et al, 1998, p. 436). It is not unusual that in case the marketing units need to concentrate on how fast the insurance company can attract mass-appeal services to the market instead of how they can serve the individual needs (Kandampully, 1998, p. 432).

Ultimately, the complexity here is that the insurance market is becoming saturated, and the efficiency of the mass marketing is slowing down and may totally halt. Opportunely, the advanced data mining process can help the insurance firms to get back to the market by concentrating on the individual clients and hence gain their loyalty. New approach to get clients and relation them will have to be creative, involve in information centred and customer-focused services (Chen et al, 1999, p. 29). This will pave the way for the creation of new customer relationship management for the simpler and effective economics while on a grander wide-ranging scale.

Customer centric model is becoming very effective in get clients. With this in mind, many insurers are shifting from their traditional product-oriented designs of the past to this new model for better service provision. The customer needs are addressed and the means of understanding the customers are being improved constantly. The market campaign analyses offer in-depth responses of what customers expect and this has served as the foundation of the service development for the future (Ruyter, et al, 1998, p. 436). Addressing clients’ needs, reactions and desires is necessary for implementing customer-centric model. The model is effective when the data mining process and customer management processing are integrated. This integration instigates cyclic relationship that can be used to assess the character of the customer as per what the marketer needs. The model can then help in predicting the behaviour of the clients (Lee, et al, 2001, p. 35).

Complaint Management

Effective campaign management seem to be the main tool to heal insurance firs survives the competition. Customer retention continues to be touted as the main sale driver in the insurance sector but the policies are only considered as commodities. For so long, the main factor in insurance has been the pricing of the policies. This has often subjected the customers to continuous barrage of the marketing messages concerning services that are affordable and convenient to pay (Lee, et al, 2001, p. 35). Many people would not keenly assess the difference between one policy and another unless they are able to tell the difference in the pricing. This is why Hong Kong insurers get a hard time in retaining insured when it comes to prices and a time of renewal (Kandampully, 1998, p. 432). With websites available for clients to make comparisons, the situation is exacerbated. The consequence of this is that the individual companies then need to put more effort in explain the differences they have from the competitors. They are also forced to create better mean of engendering loyalty so that retention is assured. Being able to retain clients means profits for the insurance company (Foster & Cadogan, 2000, p. 185). This is because; upon renewal, the administration cost usually goes down. The expense of acquiring a new client is much higher to at least five times more than retaining. The habit has been developed because most client based on the price before deciding to buy new polices, however, it is the service that paradoxically keep them with the same company or want to switch to another (Foster & Cadogan, 2000, p. 185). According to research, moderately higher percentage of customers (57%) would purchase services at slightly higher prices if they were guaranteed of excellent services.

To be able to understand clients, the firm has to be an understanding one. Customer information is very critical and it builds the strategy to be used. The company can use information to identify the opportunities that are unexploited within the customer base (Perppard, 2000, p. 312). Many firms seem to overlook the fact the more efficient and more effective they handle customer complaints the more they influence the customer loyalty, which translates to more retention.

Customer information is very valuable to the business. It offers the vital insights into what the business has to do to improve. Enhancing customer loyalty is by ensuring that the firms get information from their customers (Perppard, 2000, p. 312). A company is supposed to treasure its customers because they are a huge source of information from the competitors. Moreover, a firm is able to acquire marketing skills from customers. Customers will always complain or recommend on how services are offered. From such information, an insurance firm is able to know what they are to stop doing or keep doing and where they need improvement (Chen et al, 1999, p. 29). By listening to customers and making changes, it makes them feel very important. Thus, customers will always tend to come to that particular service firm because of creating a good customer-firm relationship (Román, 2003, p. 9). New products can be designed from this and the existing one improved in an attempt to meet the expectations of the customers. Many firms also fail to appreciate the importance of the complaints from their clients. Ironically, many insurers also recognise that the most complained issue is the way they handle complaints! Research on the other hand indicates that complaints that are solved increase customer loyalty, since the clients has no cause to place complaints (Román, 2003, p. 9). This means that when complains are properly dealt with, customer loyalty increase in the post-complaint period. Yet many firms have totally missed the point here, they do not realise that handling complaints adequately as an effect on the customer loyalty (Perppard, 2000, p. 312).

The way to move forward is to ensure that the complaint management is done effectively. The process should ensure total transparency over the customers, even the brokers, and the firms (Athanassopoulos, 2000, p. 192). The process should address difference viewpoints and use the feedback from the market and within itself to improve productivity. As the insurers implement procedures like the enterprise-wide model, of handling issues, consistency has to be assured (Michael, 2000, p. 58). When the firm managers to maintain data integrity across its services, then it is able for fulfil every gaol and serve every client well. Each complaint can be handles in time thus reducing the accumulation of complaints. When there is transparency in managing complaints.

Loyalty Factors

It is important to understand the most consistent and reliable factor that is associated with loyalty and profitability in the insurance company. Underwriters often think of prices that are competitive in the market when faced with this challenge (Michael, 2000, p. 58). Agency owners on the other hand would want to think of availability of coverage to cover the issues. Providers would also think of the same. As the market keeps on changing in terms of prices and market availability, there is a constant and very critical concern for the customer regarding prompt services and effective claims management.

As identified above, many researchers have linked customer retention with better claims management. This then translates into profits- Many firms have people dealing in the post- underwriting procedures or part of the business and have been able to make a wide range of meaningful improvements that translated into reduced workload for the claims personnel. Communication is also enhanced between underwriters and the clients (Michael, 2000, p. 58).

Currently there are a number of confirmation that prompt, efficient and targeted claims process that is essential in reducing the ratios and increasing service quality and hence customer loyalty. This is why investors portend that automation of all the process of insurance would be salvation for the understaffed firms or for the inadequately trained personnel. Giving this a more stringent assessment, public’s perception of the business is what matters. It is important that the firms also look into the fact that customers can lose trust in the form base on the automation process. This is because of security reasons considering that the private information with be on the websites or the company database (Reichheld & Markey, 2000, p. 45).

Customer loyalty can be enhanced by giving the customer full information about the products. Clarity in policy establishment is very critical because some clients fail to buy services from the firm because of complications in describing the services. If a client does not understand, how he/she will be served in the event they suffer the claim insured against (Ha & John, 2009, p. 1743). It is good to refer customers to other offices where they take a very long process to get compensation.

It is also very important to set clear process of claiming and compensating customers. Giving customers such information gives them a sense of consideration by the insurance firm. The insurance firm is expected to give information on the way compensation would be done. This will prevent problems when making claims and the customers will trust their companies. If a customer is given such attention and then he or she will not like to shift to another firm, then for sure he or she is bound to renew their policy (Reichheld & Markey, 2000, p. 46). Flexibility is another way of ensuring customer loyalty is created and sustained. When an insurance firm is able to customize their services for every customer, more consumers are bound to buy the products. Well-appointed products such as auto insurances fit a certain type of clients and home insurance fits specific clients.

Implementing a good communication channel is very critical. Any organization needs to share information across the work staff and along the hierarchical ladder. Exchange of information is very critical as in most cases, it is through such types of information that people get to learn of very important skill and expertise (Ha & John, 2009, p. 1743). The firm also needs to improve on the customer relations. Dealing with clients with integrity is very important as it one of the ways that a company can create customer loyalty. In essence, the customer is the boss and final right of making the purchase. He/she has the money to spent, the need and the authority to make the decision to the company is obliged in most case to accommodate the wishes of the clients

In order to overcome the resistance by clients to make actual purchases on line, the business is will pioneer the use of visual tools, personalize the services and adopt a liberal delivery and return policy. The business will also offer a small token to online shoppers to fill information regarding their likes, preferences and tastes in customer database. The business will exploit the fact that everyone likes being appreciated and as a result the clients who frequently visit the website will be sent emails of appreciation, magazines, and newsletters.

Internet marketing has been very important over the recent past since it is the fastest growing media in the world. Business is turning on line because of the ability of the media to reach a wider audience or clients (Chinn et al, 1999. P. 659). On the other hand being a direct method of selling and as a consequence, there are many sales that can be seen this way (Ha & John, 2009, p. 1743). Considering then cost, internet is cheaper compared to other media of promoting sales and since apparel and accessories are currently advertised through paper and electronic media and the internet, the selling on the internet is appropriate.

Strengths of the Insurance

The Hong Kong insurance sector has been awarded the secure viewpoint by the standard & Poor’s, even though the company gave out warning that consolidation was expected in the disjointed industry. Researchers observed that the industry was very resilient in the past few years amid the turbulent economic downturn and from that, it has managed to go through the volatile market (Ruyter et al, 1998, p. 437). Smaller firms that do not have sustainable and defendable niche are likely to be edged out.

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