Accolades pour in to one insurer that keeps the focus on the customer

Amica Mutual Insurance Co. knows how to keep its customers happy and make money.

The Kansas City Star’s database analysis of consumer complaints nationwide found that Amica ranked better than many other auto and home insurers. The Lincoln, R.I., insurer also consistently wins top customer-satisfaction awards from J.D. Power and Associates and has scored well among Consumer Reports subscribers.

How do they do it?

“The No. 1 standard we have is to serve the customer well,” said Bruce Maynard, senior assistant vice president.

Sounds simple, but Maynard said that company mantra permeates all the big and little things Amica does right.

Little things such as service center workers consistently answering more than 90 percent of customer calls within three rings. Or not using “scripts” while talking to customers.

“You should be dealing with that customer as if they were your best friend,” Maynard said.

It has paid off. Amica retains more than 90 percent of its customers — a high percentage among insurers.

And it pays off with recognition. Amica has won J.D. Power’s auto insurance honor this year for the seventh straight year and the home insurance award for the fifth consecutive year.

Jeremy Bowler is senior director of J.D. Power’s insurance group, which surveys thousands of consumers and publishes survey results for about 20 different auto and home insurers. Yet just one brief conversation that Bowler had at the Providence airport validated those surveys’ findings about Amica.

Bowler was carrying an Amica tote bag he’d gotten at a recent awards ceremony when a woman at the airport noticed it and told Bowler: “I’m an Amica customer and they’re great.” Bowler has spent years working on customer satisfaction projects and said such testimonials are rare.

He said Amica also manages claims differently. Some companies’ primary goal is to minimize losses. At Amica, “they’re trying to make the customer whole,” Bowler said.

Yet, Amica still makes money. Last year, the company reported premiums of $1.4 billion and a profit of $145 million. What’s more, the company paid dividends of $131 million to policyholders. Dividends result in more customer satisfaction than any discount, Bowler said.

Being owned by its policyholders provides another advantage, Maynard said. The company doesn’t have to meet stockholder expectations of ever higher profits, or have to quickly make up losses from a severe, unexpected disaster.

“We have the luxury of taking a longer view,” he said.

Another company that fared well in The Star’s analysis was USAA of San Antonio, Texas, which also earned high marks from J.D. Power for auto and home insurance. Company officials, however, declined to be interviewed.