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Shepherds Friendly Society - Innovation in Customer Service

 

Gold Stevie Award Winner 2019, Click to Enter The 2020 Stevie® Awards for Sales & Customer Service

Company: Shepherds Friendly Society, Cheadle, Cheshire, United Kingdom
Company Description: Shepherds Friendly Society is a UK friendly society and one of the oldest mutual insurers in the world. We were founded on Christmas Day 1826 as a sickness and benefits society. Fast-forward nearly 200 years and today we have a range of adult and children’s savings products, income protection plans and life insurance for over 50s; all designed to help and support families now and for the future
Nomination Category: Customer Service & Call Center Awards Achievement Categories
Nomination Sub Category: Award for Innovation in Customer Service - Financial Services Industries

Nomination Title: Innovative customer service

Tell the story about your organization's innovations in customer service since the beginning of July 2017 (up to 650 words). Focus on specific accomplishments, and relate these accomplishments to past performance or industry norms. Be sure to mention obstacles overcome, innovations or discoveries made, and outcomes:

The financial products sector is extremely competitive. We’re now in a market where consumers influence the development of products through feedback and insight. Compared to others in the mutual finance sector, Shepherds Friendly is a relatively small company and this means it can be challenging to stand out against well-known brands.

We needed competitive products and exceptional customer service, so formulated a three-year business strategy that would see our business transform (appendix-1). The overarching aim was to strive for net growth in membership, increased sales volumes and healthy investment returns for our customers (or members as we call them), through an increase in the total value of all our assets.

INNOVATIVE CUSTOMER SERVICE

Over the past 18 months, we’ve introduced initiatives/activities as part of our three-year strategy. Many of these are innovative, either for Shepherds Friendly, the mutual industry or compared to other companies, making us stand out from the competition:

-No machines – Anyone usually calling a financial provider will be faced with a phone system with many different options. Often this takes a couple of minutes or more to get through and speak to someone. With us, the member gets through to a person right away and we try, where possible, to handle the query there and then.
-Member focus – For any reviews of 3 stars or lower, across any review platform, we contact the member to see if we can help with any issues they’ve experienced.
-Nursery calls – welcome calls members two weeks+ after joining to ensure they’re happy with service the so far.
-Integrating our old systems and databases into one system to create a smoother member journey.
-Introducing the ‘Your Account’ members’ log-in area.
-Evolving our blog to become the ‘Your Resource’ centre, packed with finance and lifestyle top tips and FAQ guides.
-Reviewing all member literature to remove jargon and make it easier to read.
-Extending our opening hours to accommodate earlier business (8am-5pm).
-Developing a new, mobile-optimised website.

Appendix-2.

INNOVATIVE CUSTOMER COMMUNICATIONS
Our mission statement includes the phrase “To ask, listen and respond” and it’s something we take seriously; every member has the opportunity to contribute and has his/her views respected through:

Member focus groups (appendix-3).
Annual General Meeting.
Over the phone via the Member Services Team.
Regular member surveys (14 days and three months after opening a product/service, every 12 months, upon a claim and upon exit).
Independent review websites.
Social media websites.

We continually monitor this feedback and have become a truly member business; one that is for the members, crafted by the members.

MEMBER SATISFACTION

We set ourselves a target to achieve an average satisfaction rating of 4/5 stars through independent review website www.reviews.co.uk. We’ve far exceeded this target, with our average rating being 4.72.

Furthermore, the number of 5-star reviews have increased from 73.2% in quarter one 2017 to 80.3% in quarter one 2018.

Through our own member surveys, we’ve also discovered:

94% of members would recommend their plan to a friend.
92% said we’re helpful when answering their questions.

Appendix-4.

OBJECTIVES PERFORMANCE

Despite only being halfway through our three-year plan, we’ve already overachieved on all specific objectives, and continue to perform above target YTD:

Our membership has increased by 6%.
Our turnover has increased by 19%.
The total value of all our assets has increased by 6%.

Appendix-5.

OTHER BUSINESS RESULTS

On top of achieving all our objectives, we’ve seen the following business impacts:

The total premium income received increased by 36%.
The number of direct plans sold in the past year increased by 150%.
The number of total plans sold increased by 60%

Appendix-6

We believe we've excelled ourselves, introducing innovative initiatives/activities to provide exceptional member service. Winning this award would justify to our hardworking team and loyal members what we already know - Shepherds Friendly excels in innovative member service!