2021 has been a strong year for Ageas UK. We brought greater focus to our business, going for growth in our chosen markets. We prioritised personal lines, broadening our relationships with brokers and aggregators and adding in the process more than 200,000 additional customers. And this has not gone unnoticed. Ageas was named Personal Lines Insurer of the Year at both the Insurance Times Awards and British Insurance Awards, with judges citing Ageas as a company that is “getting it right for its stakeholders.”
In 2021 we were selected to join the broker panels of major retailers Sainsbury’s and the Co-op and at the same time we have also broadened our presence in the aggregator market, launching new products and offers in home, pet and van insurance. And a great deal of work went into the refreshment of our underwriting and pricing models, making our offer more broadly available with a 5-10% increase in customer reach.
It is the impact we have on customers that matters most. Through our customer experience improvement programme, we have engaged directly with our customers to gain a more granular understanding of what works well and where we need to pay more attention. Building on this, we have this year been able to accelerate a number of new initiatives to enhance the customer journey, maintaining at the same time above industry levels in our Net Promoter and Net Ease scores. Ageas UK scores significantly higher than the industry NPS average (+44.5 vs +20) in front end customer operations and +64.4 for claims - remaining in the upper quartile. Ageas also scores very highly when benchmarked against peers in the important measure of Net Easy Score, which looks more closely at how easy it is for our customers to interact with us.
We are particularly proud to have achieved the ServiceMark accreditation by the Institute of Customer Service, a significant independent and national benchmark of an organisation’s achievement in customer service and its commitment to upholding those standards. Going through this rigorous process and achieving the ServiceMark is a fantastic recognition. It makes us even more proud that we achieved this during such challenging times, when our people are servicing customers from their homes.
We have continued to deploy technology to improve the customer experience. This has included greater use of voice bots applied to 350,000 calls in 2021, leading to improved efficiency, reducing the time they need to spend on the phone with our consultants by around 45 seconds.
In addition, more than a third of our motor customers now service themselves directly online, including registering and following the progress of their claims. These improvements allow our call centre agents to engage in more elaborate conversations with customers when it really matters to them. We have also invested in additional ‘Ageas Cares’ training programmes to help customer consultants - particularly at this time - to recognise ‘vulnerability’ and respond appropriately to customer’s concerns and worries. These efforts were recognised by the European Contact Centre, who awarded Ageas Gold and Silver for its customer experience programme.
Insurance is very much a people business, and our people are the power behind the results we achieve.During these tough times we have continued to invest in their health and wellbeing which is paramount. But we also care about the career paths open to our employees. As we look to build the right skills for the long term, we launched our Technical Heroes programme, to create new opportunities, by encouraging a more lateral view of potential career paths for this community. Led by our technical experts, panels have been organised on burning tech topics and upcoming trends. The programme is already making an impact on a broad spectrum of talent interested in transitioning into a technical role.
We’re particularly proud of our recognition as a highly acclaimed Top Employer, accredited by the Top Employer Institute, a global authority in recognising excellence in people practices.
Covid continued to make its presence known. We have adopted a hybrid way of working for our people and our customers are increasingly comfortable with and demanding digital solutions.
We’ve also seen an impact on claims costs with lower Motor claims frequency at the start of the year due to travel restrictions. And while claims costs in Motor returned towards pre-Covid levels by the end of the third quarter, the lower frequency is no longer compensating for a continued increase in claims inflation. For example, with less new cars following manufacturing restrictions, the cost of second-hand cars has increased and so too has the cost of parts to repair these cars. This is where our award-winning green cars parts initiative has really come into its own, allowing us to be able to access spare parts quickly, sustainably and more cost effectively for customers.
We will play an important part in the Group’s Impact24 plan for knowledge sharing, particularly in the AI and machine learning space, and customer experience where we have created a centre of excellence to turbo-charge the transfer of knowledge across the Ageas Group. In return we will also gain from the knowledge we can import and on which we can leverage to be a faster, smarter, and more affordable leader in our chosen markets. Sustainability will also play a key role in the future with our people, our partners, and our customers, and we will make this happen through the delivery of a sharper ESG ambition.
There will be challenges ahead, none bigger in the UK than the price equalisation. This regulation is a fundamental shift in the market which represents a massive change in our core market arena. But it’s one we are prepared for.