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Serendipitous Windfall

Published on: 11 October 2010

Life at MiWay is progressing really well. We have managed to weather the credit crunch storm, built a strong desirable brand, gained critical mass and all our operational processes are running like clockwork. The most pleasing of all, is the fact that the business has reached break-even on a month-by-month basis. All this has been achieved in a highly competitive market and in tough economic times.

We have reason to feel satisfied indeed.

The most amazing part of our journey so far, however, has not been the obvious profit drivers of premium income, expense ratios and loss ratios, but rather the unexpected bonuses that flowed from some of the unique features we built into the design of the business model. The serendipitous windfall I want to focus on is the special relationship we have with our clients and the benefits that flow from that.

When we sat down to plan and design the business model, we recognised the fact that we live in the age of the consumer as well as the age of the internet. This has profound consequences for any business that plays in the service industry, because the consumer today has much more power than 10-15 years ago. Due to consumer websites such as hellopeter.com, the consumer of today is armed with the power to reach thousands, if not millions of internet users with his/her complaint/compliment. The implication for service organisations is obvious: there is no place to hide anymore. If you mess up, the whole world will read about it on the web. The days of sweeping bad service under the carpet, is over. The flipside of the coin, however, is that world-class service gets rewarded by clients posting compliments on those same consumer websites.

With this in mind, we decided to embrace the reality by being pro-active and allow our clients to post comments, good or bad, on our own website where the whole world can read it. We did this for two reasons: firstly, to give management quick feedback on where the bottlenecks and problem areas were – unhappy clients are often the greatest source of learning – and secondly, to drive the right behaviour amongst our staff. Our advisors quickly realised that poor service is punished by a complaint, whilst good service is rewarded by a compliment. And, of course, it is much more desirable that your friends and family read positive things about you on the web rather than negative things!

It took a lot of courage to take that step. I am not aware of any other company in SA who make their client comments transparent to the world. Just imagine the consequences if it blew up in our faces? After all we were just a start-up, with all the associated growing pains, which made us especially susceptible to errors and lapses in service standards.

We were in for a surprise! We created a service culture second-to-none. Our people are driven to deliver the kind of service that would solicit compliments, not complaints. We have by far the highest compliment ratio on hellopeter.com. I specifically mention this website, because it is totally independent and widely used by consumers. It also provides a “league table” that allows quick and easy comparisons with our peers. At the time of writing, MiWay enjoyed a 75% compliment ratio on a 12-month rolling basis. Our closest competitor was sitting on 41%, whilst the industry average was 29%! This is truly amazing, and certainly a victory for transparency and good old service excellence. Refer to the League Table (to the right) to see the current standings.

The lesson to me is that although it might require courage to do the right thing, it is often rewarded beyond expectations. Another truly amazing fact, is that as far as I know, MiWay is still the only company that allows their clients to post comments, good or bad, on their website. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

We are very aware of the fact that we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. We have to live up to these high standards set by ourselves every day.

We appreciate the willingness of our clients to share their experiences of our service with the world via the web. It inspires us to continue going the extra mile and to set new standards.

Kind regards,

René Otto