SHORT-term insurance companies need to  put the customer at the centre of their business and make customer-centricity their number-one priority.

This is according to Adré Schreuder, chief executive of Consulta, an independent marketing consultancy, who was commenting on the latest South African Customer Satisfaction Index (SAcsi) for Short Term Insurance companies in 2017.

The survey, conducted by Consulta, showed that niche company Virseker, claimed top spot, beating leading traditional insurers Santam, Discovery Insure, Old Mutual Insure and OUTsurance.

Now in its sixth year, the SAcsi for Short-Term Insurance Companies offers impartial insights into the short-term insurance industry by measuring customers’ overall satisfaction out of 100. It is based on brands exceeding or falling short of customer expectations and assesses how well a brand is measured against the respondents’ perception of the ideal short-term insurer.

After three consecutive years of being in the lead, Santam’s SAcsi score dropped slightly from 81.3 in 2016 to 80.2 last year. Old Mutual Insure increased its score from 77.7 to 79.5, and Discovery Insure made a strong debut with a score of 79.5.

OUTsurance increased from 77.3 to 79.3, but it was Virseker that surprised , with a score of 81.1. Auto & General’s score was on average with the industry at 75.2 and Hollard scored a below-average 71.5.

Schreuder said this was the first time since the inception of the index in 2012 that there had been such a closely contested race for the top position, and a  surprising new winner emerging.

He said the fiercely contested battle for best customer experience was evident in the SAcsi industry scorecard, which jumped from 75.8 in 2016 to 77.3 last year, showing an overall trend that short-term insurers were striving to improve their delivery to their customers.

“Margins in the industry continue to remain under pressure, resulting in insurers constantly being challenged to find the balance between profitability and investing into business initiatives that will deliver real returns,” he said.

Schreuder said Consulta has expanded the SAcsi methodology to include brand and product options offered by smaller niche brands that normally fall in the “other” category. He said Virseker has come out as a top-performing brand.

Schreuder said the short-term insurance industry,  with the broader financial services industry, was changing how it interacted with customers in line with new regulations. “There needs to be a better understanding of the true link between underwriting profits and customer experience. As the regulatory landscape changes, companies need to  put the customer at the centre of their business and make customer-centricity the number-one priority.”