Customer satisfaction of medical schemes bounce back

Perceptions are on the mend Picture:Paballo Thekiso

Perceptions are on the mend Picture:Paballo Thekiso

Published Feb 8, 2023


South African medical schemes are starting to bounce back in terms of the gap between customer expectation, and what they perceive to receive in return for their premium and loyalty.

This after losing ground during the tough Covid years, according to the latest South African Customer Satisfaction Index (SA-csi) for Medical Schemes 2022 conducted by Consulta.

The company provides scientific insights into the overall satisfaction of members of South Africa's largest open medical scheme providers (by membership numbers) – Bestmed, Bonitas, Discovery and Medihelp. The Government Employee Medical Scheme (GEMS) is the only closed medical scheme included in the survey.

Perceptions are on the mend Picture:Paballo Thekiso

But medical schemes are not out of the woods, yet.

In a media release, Consulta states that lafter ast year’s dramatic drop to a six-year low, the industry still has some ground to recover.

“The good news is that there has been an increase in perceived value by members over the last 12 months. Yet one of the emerging challenges is the need for the industry to improve the way complaints are handled. While medical schemes on the whole showed the first decrease in complaints in five years, the incidence of complaints in 2022 is high at 15% in comparison to the international best practice score which is below 10%.

Consulta which polled 3950 medical scheme members during the third and fourth quarter of 2022, announced that Bestmed emerged as the leader on overall customer satisfaction for the third year running, with all other schemes performing on, or below industry par in the 2022 index.

Abigail Boikhutso, Group Chief Executive at Consulta, explained: “Essentially the industry has levelled back to ground zero. During the pandemic, medical schemes were caught in the eye of the storm in a difficult and unsettled period where household incomes were impacted and job and financial security were in the balance.

“In line with this, consumer price tolerance was low and requirements may not have been perceived to have been met by members. It follows that a high rate of complaints would have a marked negative impact on customer satisfaction scores.

“Now that we’ve come through the worst of Covid, the industry has experienced a slight increase in perceived value by members. However, the benchmark is low and this positive bounce is in reality, taking medical schemes back to where they were in 2019,” said Abigail.

The strongest gauge in the Customer Satisfaction Index Model is “Customer Expectation” because it measures customer anticipation of the quality of a company’s service. This includes non-experiential information like advertising and word of mouth, as well as a forecast of the company’s ability to deliver quality in the future. The 2022 study shows that the industry is normalising back to the relevant range of between 80.1 - 82.2.

Boikhutso explained that this range contrasts with the notably high 2020 industry expectation of 85.0, which could be linked to the Covid-19 pandemic as customers expected more from their medical aid schemes to assist them during that period.

“Only Bestmed and Discovery exceeded the industry benchmark in 2022. Moving forward, the challenge to meet expectations is further complicated for medical schemes by the difference in cost and benefits between the different options being offered on the market.”

All medical schemes, apart from Bonitas, showed an increase in customer satisfaction scores compared with 2021.

“It is encouraging to see that the Expectation-Quality Gap is closing in 2022 at 1.8 from 2.8 in 2021, and 2.0 in 2020. All medical schemes, apart from Bonitas, showed an increase in customer satisfaction scores compared with 2021,” said Boikhutso.

“After reporting a six-year low in customer satisfaction and loyalty last year, these positive indicators are good for both the customers and the industry on the whole and the start of a bigger bounce back over the next 12 months.

As a strategic tool for gauging individual firms' competitiveness and predicting future profitability, an organisation's customer satisfaction performance, as measured by the SA-csi methodology, provides a predictive indication of how well the firm will perform in terms of future revenue and earnings growth, Consulta concluded.


Related Topics:

health welfarecovid 19