Customer Retention is a Priority for us

  8 min 50 sec to read
Customer Retention is a Priority for us

MetLife Nepal is a subsidiary of MetLife, Inc., a leading global provider of insurance, annuities, and employee benefit programs. MetLife Nepal has been operating in Nepal since 1975 and offers a wide range of insurance products, including life insurance, health insurance, and retirement plans. The company has a strong commitment to providing financial security to its customers and has been recognized for its excellence in customer service. Elena Butarova has over 20 years of experience in the insurance industry, starting in 1995 with Munich Reinsurance Company. She joined MetLife Russia in 2002 as a Sales Executive and held various positions there including Chief Marketing Officer, before moving to a regional role in 2012, heading Bancassurance across Eastern and South Europe. In 2020, she assumed the position of Senior Vice President, overseeing Bangladesh, Malaysia, Nepal, and Vietnam, where she has regional responsibility for these businesses. Pratikshya Kandel of New Business Age recently interviewed Elena about MetLife and its future plan in Nepal. Excerpts:

What is your motive for visiting Nepal this time? 
MetLife is in operation in Nepal for more than 20 years. It is not my first time in Nepal. I have been here many times already. I am visiting the country on a regular basis to review performance, visit our sales force, management, review the business, and to share best practices of the industry. And the purpose of visiting Nepal this time is different from the previous ones. I am here for the launch of the revolutionary application of MetLife, One by MetLife. The new application which was launched on September 15 is a big investment in Nepal and I think it is good for Nepal. Along with Nepal I'm responsible for three other markets, which includes Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Vietnam. 
How has MetLife's journey been in Nepal? 
MetLife is here in Nepal for more than 20 years, and I think we have a diversified distribution. It is very important. Insurance is a very special industry because usually customers are not coming to us themselves because we are not giving them money or giving loans or taking deposits from them. We are providing an insurance solution, which provides a more secure future for the people, and for that we need our sales distributor, who can explain the solution to the customer according to their needs. The needs of people differ from person to person, ranging from children’s education to retirement solutions. And the application which we have launched will definitely help them to find the right solution.
Please tell us about MetLife’s new revolutionary customer service app.
This is something which is very new in the Nepalese market, and I already mentioned that the app will help the general people to find the right solution for them. Within ‘One by MetLife’, we have a health solution called ‘360Health’ where we provide access to quality health services to the users so they can live a healthy life. We have similar applications in some Asian countries in the Middle East as well as in Japan and South Korea. We also launched it in Bangladesh one and a half years ago, and it is a huge success. The app is one of the most admired health applications in Bangladesh. More than 800,000 people have downloaded the app and over 450,000 people are registered in this application.
What are the features of the app?
With the help of ‘One by MetLife’, the user can do various activities which includes home medical tests, doctor appointments, ambulance services and many more. For instance, your spouse is working, and you are sick at home, so you just call, and the medicine will be at your door. We have also embedded discounts in more than a hundred hospitals. Also, Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the app helps the user for health risk assessment, one can see their blood pressure, stress factors, pulse, and other health status with the help of AI. We have tested this app in many countries, and people across the world have been really liking it. 
As you mentioned earlier, the app was launched almost one and a half years ago in Bangladesh, and it took a pretty long time to launch here. Are there any reasons for it?
The app which we have launched here is an updated version with enhanced user experience and additional features embedded in it. We did it on a different platform, a more modern and technological platform. From our experience and learning in other markets, we were able to bring the best to Nepal. So, it took some time to develop, and we spent a lot of money to make it for Nepal in the best possible condition. 
Many insurance companies here are embracing digitalization. How has MetLife embraced digitalization? 
Digitalisation is something extremely important because life is changing, and the expectations of customers are changing. First of all, we already have a lot of solutions in place. For example, we have the opportunity not only to do the application online, but also to see the illustration of how the policy will work. There are various digital payment tools such as wallets and online transfer for the customers, and almost 50% of payments are done through these digital platforms. People here used to pay their premium in cash in the past. But now it is gradually evolving, and we are promoting cashless payment as well.  We are promoting cashless payment because it is convenient and more safe and secure for everybody. 
We also launched the service application in 2020. Now we have completely upgraded the version. With the help of it, customers can service their policy online, see the status, and see if the premium is paid or not. Also, we have introduced a new platform for online recruitment for young people who are digitally savvy, and who would like to get a modern job. Now, almost 100% of agents are coming in through the digital platform. We also have a digital learning platform in addition to normal training.
Would you please elaborate on the tree plantation program of MetLife?
MetLife has been doing various CSR activities here in health, education, financial inclusion and environment sustainability which includes tree plantation in Nepal. Tree plantation is good for the environment in the country. At the same time, it is a good thing for our customers to remember. We are planning to plant one tree for every death claim from our customer.  For example, if there are 5,000 death claims, next year we will plant 5,000 trees in the name of every individual death claim.
What challenges do you think the insurance sector is facing in Nepal?
Some of the challenges are very common in countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, and India. It is a little bit of volatility from an economical perspective. Sometimes there is exchange rate volatility, and sometimes there is liquidity problem. In many countries, the insurance penetration is not very high, and Nepal is different, but from another perspective. I am looking at this as an opportunity because developing markets are always growing. We have a lot of new people coming in. Nepal is not an ageing society, so we have a lot of young people here who are building the future for the country. Sometimes the government cannot pay for everything. But we give the chance for the people to take care of themselves. It is something that we can really help the country to be more successful. Not only the people but all the country because it also gives some security benefits. 
What are the future plans of MetLife for Nepal? 
We will continue face-to-face individual distribution because people need individual consultation, and it’s very important. We have about 5,000 agents, and we need to ensure that they are dealing with the customer in the right way so that the customer gets what they want. For us, it is very important also to keep this customer with us because in Nepal, as in many other countries, customers are not continuing because they are not satisfied with the servicing after sales. For us, it is absolutely unacceptable. We need to have regular communication to keep the customer, and to provide them proper protection. We are paying a lot of claims - almost a thousand every month. We have been here for more than 20 years. So it is important to create a trustworthy image of insurance because not all companies are taking such a transparent approach as we do. MetLife is over 150 years old. It is a global player in the US, global player in Asia, and one of the biggest players in Nepal. So, I think it's important to keep the trust of the customer.
The Nepali economy is going through a crisis and almost every sector is getting affected. Cases of policy surrender are also on the rise. What is the status of MetLife?
We are still growing. If you do your business right, you are transparent, you are trustworthy and you can get good results.  In case somebody is in hard need of money and they are applying for surrender, we are paying. But we always explain to the customer that the last thing to sell is the life insurance policy. This is because it really gives much more protection in case something happens which is much more than just a surrender. We explain to the customers about the benefit of keeping the policy. This way we are saving from surrendering a big portion of the customers. More than half. Because sometimes people are just panicking about whether they can get the money or not.
Would you like to highlight some of the importance of insurance?
First of all, insurance is very good for the government. We are getting money and we are investing this money in Nepal. We are one of the biggest investors and taxpayers here. Secondly, we are increasing social security in the country so that in case something happens people will not go and ask money from the government. They are prepared for negative consequences. For the customer, insurance is a unique opportunity to have savings and protection. And, I personally have several policies. My son has the policy; my husband has a policy. 


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