Improved customer satisfaction seals AXA’s top industry post

Life insurer AXA Philippines is confident it is on track to becoming the preferred company, and one of the dominant players in the local life insurance industry with its heightened focus on customer experience. 

In an interview, AXA President and Chief Executive Officer Rien Hermans said as the company started crossing the line in 2010, it recognized that the customer has to be at the centre of attention in everything that AXA does – prompting a change in systems and procedures for customer service and in building up sales.

“Every research is showing that we have succeeded in this and that customers have a more positive experience in their dealings with AXA. There are more repeat sales, better persistency, and increased referrals,” Mr. Hermans said. “These two pillars resulted to two things: 1) sales more than doubled from 2009 to 2011 with compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 45%, and 2) improved customer satisfaction.”

This was the result of the AXA strategy of giving customers what they need by segmenting the market according to the distinct needs of the customers, their behaviours and general insight on insurance.

A survey conducted by AC Nielsen through telephone interviews showed that net customer satisfaction for AXA increased from 70% in 2010 to 75% in 2011. “We did that in a lot of different fields, especially in operations where customers saw changes that gave the impression that they are at the top of what we do. Last year, we ranked as one of the top players in terms of total premium income (TPI).  We broke the P10-billion barrier by giving people what they need,” Mr. Hermans said.

Ariel Magtoto, AXA Customer Experience Head, said that in their most recent Scope survey, AXA Philippines exhibited the greatest improvement in customer scope among the global insurer’s eight Asian operations. Scope is a satisfaction survey conducted annually with AXA customers, distributors, and employees.

“To be preferred, we must ensure that we deliver what our customers truly need, at the minimum. It all starts with listening to what they’re saying and being sensitive to what they’re not saying. We also made every staff realize that everything we do impacts the customer. We created a strong sense of accountability for results,” Mr. Magtoto shared. “By the close of 2011, we set the platform to say that, ‘we are easy to do business with’.”

He added that employees now feel that the company is “more customer-centric, putting customers in the first place” with a marked focus on customers and stronger engagement at AXA Philippines. “The ultimate measures of customer satisfaction are in terms of Likelihood to Recommend, for which we have garnered the highest increase at +27 percentage points, and Intention to Buy More which improved by +29 percentage points.”

AXA has 133,476 individual clients and 160,448 certificate holders of group policies. Of the 130,000 customers, 79,000 have registered their mobile numbers. As for email, AXA already has 12,000 addresses out of its target of 50,000. This paves the way towards more intimate and meaningful customer communications.  

Meanwhile, AXA Chief Financial Officer Don San Jose said the company’s net premium in 2011 was P10 billion, net of reinsurance premiums, and its net income at P967 million. 

“The top line premium revenue went up by 20% from 2010, and profit went up by 21%. New premiums  was at P7.9 billion, of which P1.2 billion from regular (i.e. recurring) premiums (RP) and P6.7 billion in single premiums (SP). Total regular premiums (new and renewal) of P3.4 billion grew by 21% from P2.7 billion the year before. In terms of total assets, the company grew by almost 10% to P39 billion, of which almost P34 billion are liability funds held for our customers,” Mr. San Jose said.

Mr. Hermans said: “It is important to grow the agency in scale if we are to target 25% CAGR in total new business. We have invested a lot in facilities in the last two years – putting up new branches and renovating the old ones. Our concentration is in the big cities in Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao. We just opened a new office in Davao; and soon, we will open new offices in Cebu as well as in Metro Manila and Southern Luzon.”

AXA also plans to grow its agency force from 1,500 to 1,700 for this year. 

The market segmentation that AXA implemented recently is also expected to boost its campaign to reach more clients. “We did a research on what customers think, expect, and the hurdles they face when they purchase life insurance and decide to invest, and we came up with three market segments to better address their needs,” Mr. Hermans explained.

Changes in culture in the people who meet customers, and the recruitment and development of people will make the difference, and “in the end, we may be number one,” added Mr. Hermans. “When I started three years ago, I decided that our priority was to become the most preferred company in the Philippines. The results today show that we have translated our words into action and in giving the right customer service.”

He is optimistic that these will drive the results in the next three years. “We are confident to maintain a stable position in the top of the industry,” Mr. Hermans said.

AXA is prepared for changes in the industry such as possible consolidation of players and the increase in minimum capital, Mr. Hermans said. “There will be consolidation, which, in the end, will be better.  As to the increase in capital, our position on the P1 billion proposal then is clear because we are going through the process already. In order to do this business right, you need to have the right amount of capital.” 

The CEO also noted that AXA wants to strengthen its position as a health insurer because its business is in both life and non-life.  “There are a lot of preparations to do for that. Towards the last quarter this year, we will focus on individual products – offering a high level of protection for health – critical illness, hospital income, and surgical benefits,” Mr. Hermans said, adding that it is an opportunity for AXA.

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