Building long-term customer loyalty in the South African Medical Scheme industry
Thesis (MBA)--Stellenbosch University, 2012.
The medical scheme industry of South Africa has been exposed to fundamental changes during the last decade. We have been witness to various amalgamations and scheme closures as a result of financial pressure and changes to legislation. Never before has it been more important for medical scheme administrators to become more customer focused and find solutions for medical schemes to stay viable into the future. Relationship marketing, a widely acknowledged concept, has been recognised as an appropriate tool to manage relationships and improve customer loyalty over a long-term period. A number of studies have investigated the viability of relationship marketing strategies across different industries. No such studies have however been performed for the medical scheme industry of South Africa. The study therefore aims to investigate how loyalty between medical schemes and their respective administrators is currently maintained. It further aims to determine if the medical scheme industry would benefit from relationship marketing initiatives to encourage long-term loyalty. An in-depth literature study was performed. The underlying aspects under investigation include relationship marketing, customer relationship management (CRM) and customer loyalty. It is thus important to investigate the influence of these three components on the strength of relationships and customer retention. The second phase of the study consisted of in-depth semi-structured interviews with various scheme representatives from the industry. This study is based on an exploratory case and the qualitative data was analysed using pattern finding techniques and qualitative content analysis. The study investigated the factors that have an impact on loyalty in the medical scheme industry. It was determined that relationships between administrators and medical schemes are multilevel and although relationship marketing literature indicates that key account managers are essential for the successful use of relationship based strategies, it was evident that expertise needs to extend beyond only those in key customer management positions. It is evident from the findings of this study that the medical scheme industry of South Africa could benefit hugely from correctly implemented and well researched relationship marketing strategies. This study may therefore be useful to the medical scheme industry in that it provides insight into relationship marketing in the South African context.