Delivering the best possible service
Ben Newark, Rothesay
At Rothesay policyholders are at the heart of everything we do. We are committed to protecting the security of our policyholders’ benefits and pride ourselves on providing excellent customer service. We take our responsibilities to policyholders extremely seriously and in this article I’ve set out how we approach delivering the best possible service.
Our administration model
We follow a strategic outsourcing model and use industry leading experts for the provision of administration services - we have over 200 dedicated staff providing our core services, including administration, payroll and contact centre services.
Underpinned by seamless administration and strong governance, we champion intense care and attention to detail. We constantly measure performance for quality, accuracy and timeliness, and maintain stringent internal governance to ensure standards are maintained. All of our processes have contractual service level agreements (SLAs) where we strive for the end-to-end journey time to be as short as possible whilst maintaining quality and accuracy. During 2020 performance against our market leading SLAs was consistently above 90%.
Measuring our service
We offer our policyholders the opportunity to participate in telephone, online or paper surveys as part of most of our day-to-day interactions. We also issue targeted surveys covering specific topics such as the retirement journey. In 2020, 95% of our policyholders rated our service as “excellent” or “good”. We have included some quotes from our policyholders at the end of this article.
We are a member of the Institute of Customer Service, an independent, professional body for customer service. During 2021 we worked with the Institute to independently measure ourselves against other companies, providing us with valuable feedback. We achieved an ‘excellence score’ well above the average for insurance companies and at a similar level to companies known for their focus on customer service such as John Lewis and Amazon. The survey also provided insight into where our service is particularly strong as well as where there are opportunities to improve the policyholder experience. Our policyholders scored Rothesay particularly highly on our competence, helpfulness, clarity and empathy when dealing with their enquiries during the bereavement process. We are especially proud that the majority of those surveyed said our service could not have been any better.
We believe we have some of the lowest levels of complaints in our industry. However, when we do receive complaints, we conduct an in-depth review to confirm the validity of the complaint and then a root-cause analysis for each one to understand what happened and why; this helps us to reduce the chance of similar situations occurring in the future. In 2020, less than 0.1% of our policyholders made a complaint and only 0.042% of policyholders made complaints that were upheld. All complaints are dealt within the FCA's 8-week timescale, with the average time from us receiving a complaint to us sending the final response to a complaint being less than 2 weeks.
Clear communication is one of the most important areas when it comes to customer service, especially in a complex area like pensions. There are a number of ways we communicate with our policyholders:
- Written: We aim to make all of our policyholder communications easy to understand, with information that is sufficient for its purpose, tailored to the audience and presented in a way that is likely to be understood.
- Telephone contact: All of our contact centres are based in the UK and we aim to answer at least 80% of calls within 30 seconds. We also limit the number of automated options so that a policyholder can speak to a call handler quickly. We don’t set call duration targets for our call handlers as we know that it is important for queries to be fully answered and for sensitive topics, such as bereavements, to be dealt with appropriately. Calls are recorded and this provides invaluable data for us to ensure the quality of call handling remains consistently high.
- Our online service: We are seeing that an increasing number of the pension schemes that we help de-risk have some sort of member website. In 2020 we launched our own online service where our policyholders can view and access their personal data and policy details. We see this as an alternative communication method that policyholders can use, but they still have the option to contact us by phone, email or post.
We strive to ensure policyholders who are regarded as vulnerable customers experience outcomes that are as good as those for policyholders that are not vulnerable.
At times, many of our policyholders are likely to be affected by a number of the commonly identified characteristics of vulnerability. Examples include retirement as a key life event, ill health and, for some policyholders, financial hardship and a high reliance on pension payments as their only or main source of income. Bereavements also must be dealt with sensitively and with the utmost care and consideration. To help us achieve that, we actively seek out partnerships with organisations who have expertise on vulnerabilities that are likely to impact our policyholders and their loved ones. We currently work closely with Age UK, Mind and the Alzheimer’s Society.
Section 3 of the FCA’s Financial Lives 2020 survey is titled ‘Consumers with characteristics of vulnerability’. It shows that 76% of customers who are experiencing drivers of vulnerability do not see themselves as vulnerable. We therefore work hard to equip our front line teams with the skills to identify a range of vulnerabilities, and the knowledge to offer practical solutions to those in need. While some vulnerabilities are permanent, others are temporary, so we try to remember that what works today for a policyholder, may be different tomorrow. As a result, we continuously seek to adapt to changes in our policyholders’ circumstances.
Regulators, industry bodies & the voluntary sector
As a regulated entity, we obviously take our obligations seriously, but always look to collaborate with the industry to ensure customers always receive the best possible service. We have regular engagement with the FCA, most recently on the fair treatment of vulnerable customers, and with the ABI where we are members of their Vulnerable Customers Working Group and the Pensions Dashboard Working Group.
Our commitment to administration has been recognised by the Pensions Administration Standards Association (PASA), the independent body dedicated to driving up standards in pension administration. We were the first insurance company to undergo the accreditation process with PASA and they awarded us their Gold Standard – please see the press release for more details.
We also work closely with others in the voluntary sector, always looking for ways to provide that enhanced policyholder experience. In particular, we have built a strong relationship with Tax Help for Older People and are a member of the Death Notification Service.
Service during the COVID-19 pandemic
Given the profound effect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our lives this article would be incomplete without mentioning our experience.
We worked quickly and closely with our administration partners to ensure our dedicated teams were able to continue to work effectively from home. Introducing more flexibility enabled us to continue to provide excellent customer service during the pandemic. For example, we changed our procedures to accept scanned versions of documentation whereas previously we would have requested original documentation.
We have seen a noticeable increase in work volumes, but from the beginning there have been no material changes to service levels or contingency arrangements – the services to our policyholders, trustees and professional counterparties remains largely unchanged. Pensions have always been paid accurately and on time throughout.
Throughout the lockdowns, it was important to reassure our policyholders that their benefits were safe and secure despite the unprecedented times. Sadly, it was also necessary to draw their attention to the increased level of pension scam activity during the pandemic and to urge them to be careful. We created a flyer to deliver both of these messages which was sent with all our written correspondence and attached to all emails to our policyholders.
The impact of coronavirus on the services provided by our administration teams continues to be actively managed.
Some quotes from our policyholders
“New pension started paying this year, right in the middle of the pandemic… Had no trouble at all…”
“I can honestly say that without the wonderful service you supplied during my bereavement… I would not have coped well. Your communication either by telephone or correspondence was superb… In a confused state of mind, that is what it’s like- your service stood out like a beacon warm, clear voices on the other end of the line – thank you so much for helping me get back to reality…”
“The process was good, thank you, especially in these times of COVID. Everyone was helpful and sympathetic, which is appreciated during the difficult time following bereavement…”
“The Rothesay team always responded in a timely manner, with accurate information, even in the lockdown period…”
“Your service has been exemplary over all the years, for which I thank you”
About the author
Ben is Head of Liability Operations at Rothesay and has been with the company since its inception. His key mandate is to establish and maintain an effective control environment in order to ensure accurate and timely payments, correct and complete data for risk management purposes and to ensure that Rothesay delivers the best possible policyholder experience.