Justin James: Making it personal and listening to customers

Listening to what our customers want is the best way to cut through the noise in private health insurance, says Justin James, Director, Customer Growth, Bupa Australia & New Zealand.

Putting Bupa's customers first

The voices of our customers matter most.

In Australia, we're fortunate enough to have a robust public health system, but as with any massive, publicly funded system it has its challenges.

That means as a private health insurer, our customer solutions have to be just that: solutions.

We need to be customer-centric otherwise we won’t cut through the noise in the private health insurance marketplace.

At Bupa, we're putting the voice of the customer at the very core of what we do and how we do it.

We subscribe to four customer-led behaviours:

  1. Putting ourselves in the shoes of our customers. 
  2. Listening and guiding.
  3. Working together to enable our customers.
  4. Acting on our word.

Those key behaviours also form the backbone of how we reward and recognise our people.

We do that for their customer-focus, transparency, ethical sales and service practises. 

We regularly survey our customers to see how we're doing.

We take the challenge of affordability seriously.

We’re always looking at other ways we can change our business to support more affordable health insurance.

A recent report by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to the Australian Senate noted, “the affordability of insurance remains a significant concern for consumers, ... real household expenditure on private health insurance premiums has increased steadily over the past decade.”

The same report also said consumers can still have difficulty understanding policies – which can result in outcomes like bill shock, and unforeseen out of pocket expenses.

Knowing this, we're working to streamline our business so we can pass savings on to our customers.

We're striving to keep communication open with our people and customers to see how we can improve as a company.

Explaining things better

At Bupa, we have introduced a “Customer Friendly Language” program, so health insurance is clear and easy to understand.

We’re also focusing on trying to create a clear online platform that’s easy to use for people short on time.

In our stores, we created a new program called Retail Next. This is focused on new and innovative experiences for both our people and our customers..

Time will tell if we can make it work – but what matters to us, is that we are trying something new to address ongoing customer concerns.

Justin James, Director, Customer Growth, Bupa Australia & New Zealand
Our thinking is, if we reward customer-led behaviour, over dollars, then we will grow and build an organic customer-led culture
Justin James, Director, Customer Growth, Bupa Australia & New Zealand

Customers before dollars

In 2017 we addressed the way we reward our people. We believed it should reflect our commitment to our customer culture.

We asked independent advisors to test our internal reward and recognition platform to make sure it stands up to the rigour of ethical customer outcomes, as opposed to other reward platforms that just recognise sales targets.‚Äč

Now our consultants are rewarded based on customer feedback about them and other KPIs.

Cultural change takes time. But we know that if we want to be here in years to come, we need to adapt.

The ACCC and ASIC are right to be on the lookout for dodgy sales practises – as consumers we are entitled to protection from predatory product pushing.

Happy customers mean happy staff

The Australian private health insurance marketplace is flooded with products marketed in a way that increases anxiety and encourages impulse purchasing, particularly around the end of the financial year for tax purposes.

It’s hard to compete with a cheap, quick fix.

This financial year we tried something new. We communicated openly with our teams, reiterating our commitment to a culture that celebrates customer-led behaviours and doesn’t push products into the marketplace.

Even though our numbers weren’t where they were a few years ago, our people were happier and more engaged; and a happy workforce is a key ingredient to keeping ourselves customer-centric.

It’s all connected.

We are a health and care company.

We're making sure that health and care remains robust and resolute in a shrinking marketplace where temptation to upsell and oversubscribe is abundant.