Dealerscope Warranty Roundup: 2017 Goals & Strategies

By: Jeff Hatch

March 14, 2017

Sean Stapleton, president & CEO of Warrantech, recently spoke with Dealerscope magazine as part of a discussion on upcoming company initiatives. The following is an excerpt, providing a brief glimpse of what Warrantech has in store for 2017 to help businesses increase their extended service plan offerings and give customers the most value for their money and a worry-free shopping experience. 
 
Warrantech has developed a revolutionary new customer loyalty program for its partners that is designed to generate both recurring protection plan revenue and long-term customer retention.
 
The program allows retail partners to offer their customer base customized protection bundles for major appliances, mobile devices and connected living products owned by the customer, regardless of where the product was purchased. Partners have the ability to offer their customers monthly product protection subscriptions designed to enhance the customer’s experience with a full menu of features including 24/7 tech support and seamless repair/replacement solutions.
 
The program can be customized to provide disappearing deductibles for services or products provided to customers under the plans procured through the participating partners, thereby incentivizing customers to remain loyal to the partner retailer. Moreover, the rich data from the program can be monetized to help deliver targeted and personalized product offerings to customers based on their recent program usage.
 
Look for the full article in the March 2017 issue of Dealerscope or online at http://bit.ly/2mKB0iJ   
 
And be sure to keep up with us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn so you can learn more about our innovative products and services as they become available.

Filed Under: Dealerscope, initiatives, offering, products, program, Sean, service, Stapleton

AmTrust Reports Fourth Quarter 2016 Net Income, Reflecting Strengthening Of Reserves

By: Jeff Hatch

February 27, 2017

AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. (Nasdaq:AFSI) ("the Company" or "AmTrust") today announced fourth quarter 2016 net income attributable to common stockholders of $98.7 million, or $0.57 per diluted share, compared to $59.7 million, or $0.35 per diluted share in the fourth quarter 2015. For the fourth quarter 2016, operating earnings was $66.3 million, or $0.38 per diluted share, compared to $115.7 million, or $0.67 per diluted share, in the fourth quarter 2015. The decrease in net income attributable to common stockholders and operating earnings reflects a reserve charge of $65.0 million, or approximately $0.24 per diluted share, primarily related to strengthening of prior year loss and loss adjustment reserves in our Specialty Program segment.
 
"Our fourth quarter caps a strong year in which we completed and integrated several strategic acquisitions, delivered higher investment returns, achieved record revenue, strengthened our balance sheet through preferred stock issuances, returned more than $262 million of capital to shareholders in the form of common share repurchases and dividends, and produced book value per share of $15.15 at year-end, an increase of over 17% from a year ago," said Barry Zyskind, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, AmTrust. "We are very pleased with the underlying operational performance of our business in the fourth quarter and in 2016, a year in which we continued to maintain high levels of policy retention and maintain underwriting discipline. While our expense ratio was elevated in the fourth quarter, due largely to business mix as well as higher costs related to increased year-end resources, expenses were otherwise in line with our net earned premium growth."
 
"Our combined ratio of 95.5% in the fourth quarter reflects our continued profitability, particularly in our two largest segments, Small Commercial Business and Specialty Risk and Extended Warranty, but we are strengthening prior year loss and loss adjustment reserves in our Specialty Program segment following extensive internal actuarial reviews. As we have noted in the past, this segment has underperformed relative to our expectations, which led us to install new leadership and to adjust our approach to writing programs for commercial auto, general liability, and workers' compensation. We are confident that we are adequately reserved on our consolidated book of business. We have a solid foundation to build upon in 2017, and are committed to creating shareholder value through disciplined growth and steady returns."
 
Fourth Quarter 2016 Results
 
Total revenue was $1.42 billion, an increase of $219.4 million, or 18%, from $1.20 billion in the fourth quarter 2015. Gross written premium was $1.91 billion, an increase of $299.8 million, or 19%, from $1.61 billion in the fourth quarter 2015. Net written premium was $1.15 billion, an increase of $81 million, or 8%, compared to $1.07 billion in the fourth quarter 2015. Net earned premium was $1.22 billion, an increase of $157.7 million, or 15%, from $1.06 billion in the fourth quarter 2015. The combined ratio was 95.5% compared to 91.9% in fourth quarter 2015.
 
Full Year 2016 Results
 
Total revenue was $5.45 billion, an increase of $837.7 million, or 18%, from $4.62 billion in 2015. Gross written premium was $7.95 billion, an increase of $1,149.7 million, or 17%, from $6.80 billion in 2015. Net written premium was $4.85 billion, an increase of $591.3 million, or 14%, from $4.26 billion in 2015. Net earned premium of $4.67 billion increased $646.2 million, or 16%, from $4.02 billion in 2015. The combined ratio was 92.1% compared to 91.1% in 2015.
 
A summary of results is listed below along with a link to the earnings release. 
 
Financial Highlights
 
Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2016 Highlights
 
Fourth quarter gross written premium of $1.91 billion and net earned premium of $1.22 billion, up 19% and 15%, respectively, from the fourth quarter 2015
Fourth quarter service and fee income of $151.0 million, up 26% from the fourth quarter 2015
Fourth quarter net income attributable to common stockholders of $98.7 million, or $0.57 per diluted share, compared to $59.7 million, or $0.35 per diluted share, in the fourth quarter 2015
Fourth quarter operating earnings of $66.3 million, or $0.38 per diluted share, compared to $115.7 million, or $0.67 per diluted share, in the fourth quarter 2015
Current period net income attributable to common stockholders and operating earnings include a reserve charge of $65.0 million, or approximately $0.24 per diluted share;
Fourth quarter and full year combined ratio of 95.5% and 92.1%, respectively
Full year 2016 capital returned to shareholders of $262.4 million, including $152.3 million of common share repurchases
 
To view AmTrust Financial Services’ Q4 earnings release, visit the Investor Relations section at http://ir.amtrustgroup.com or click on the following link: http://ir.amtrustgroup.com/releasedetail.cfm?ReleaseID=1014558 

Filed Under: AmTrust, earnings, financial, profitability, Q4, services, Warrantech

Extended-Service Contracts Help Build a Comfort Zone – and Long-Term Relationships – with Customers

By: Jeff Hatch

February 21, 2017

The following is an excerpt from an article by Jeff Crider, which appeared in the 2017 Jan./Feb. issue of RVBusiness. The full article can be found at: http://bit.ly/2m9hhac
 
“The quality of RVs in general has improved, but there are more and more gadgets,” said Joe Suttera, Warrantech’s vice president of specialty products. “From a warranty standpoint, there is certainly a lot more risk than there ever has been when it comes to these units.”
 
The continued growth of the RV industry in 2017 is good news not only for the nation’s RV manufacturers, aftermarket suppliers and retail dealers, but also for the companies selling extended-service contracts to this emerging wave of RV consumers.
   In fact, the extended-service-contract business is booming, companies told RVBusiness, due to this sustained increase in the sales of new and used towable and motorized RVs. 
   Indeed, the industry is currently experiencing its eighth consecutive year of growth, with wholesale shipments of new RVs expected to increase 4.4% in 2017 to 438,000 units, according to projections by Richard Curtin of the University of Michigan’s Consumer Survey Research Center.
   That continuous flow of new- and used-vehicle sales creates huge opportunities for dealers to sell their customers extended-service contracts, the cost of which is typically added to the vehicle loan at the time of purchase. 
   Regardless of whether their RV is new or used, consumers want to have peace of mind knowing that unexpected repair costs will be covered when their vehicle’s warranty runs out. While manufacturers provide different types of warranties to cover things that can malfunction in the mechanical and living areas of an RV, warranties only last for specific periods of time. Extended-service contracts have been designed to extend warranty protections for additional periods of time with varying levels of coverage and cost. 
   Extended-service contracts are also available to cover things that are not typically covered by factory warranties such as roadside assistance, tire-and-wheel coverage and paint-and-fabric coverage.
   Millennials, in particular, are in tune with the latest innovations in technology and they want it to work. 
   Extended-service contracts can cover these items after the warranties expire to give consumers peace of mind with their RV purchases, regardless of whether they have new or used vehicles.
   Bill Gilman, senior vice president of sales for Warrantech, an AmTrust Financial Company based in Bedford, Texas, said there were more “fit and fitness issues” with RVs back in 2007 when the RV industry was struggling through the Great Recession. The downturn forced many RV manufacturers out of business. But while the quality of today’s RVs has significantly improved from 2007, Warrantech and other extended-service contract providers see plenty of potential risks to cover.
   “The quality of RVs in general has improved, but there are more and more gadgets,” said Joe Suttera, Warrantech’s vice president of specialty products. “Now you’re covering 50-inch flat-screen TVs, full walk-in showers. From a warranty standpoint, there is certainly a lot more risk than there ever has been when it comes to these units.”
   As one might expect, companies that provide extended-service contracts closely monitor their claims reports so that they can price their contracts accordingly. They also monitor feedback from RV dealers and periodically either update their extended-service contracts to cover new products or develop entirely new types of extended-service contracts for dealers to sell. 
   Extended-service contract companies offer a variety of educational programs and increasingly sophisticated electronic programs to expedite contract sales and claims processing. 
   But the time to make the initial pitch to consumers is in the F&I process when they’re purchasing their new or used RVs. That’s when dealers have an opportunity to educate their customers so that they know the differences between warranties and extended-service contracts. 
 
Warrantech Automotive, an AmTrust Group Co.
Bedford, Texas  
Product offering: Warrantech markets exclusionary and stated extended-service contracts using the CampersEdge brand name. The company covers motorhomes valued at up to $5000,000 and with up to 100,000 miles. It also covers towable units valued at up to $150,000 and that are up to 15 years old. The company also offers specialty contracts for RV technical assistance; 24/7 roadside assistance; windshield repairs; painting and interior; tire and wheel coverage; as well as key/remote replacement coverage. Warrantech also provides Towbusters coverage with 24-hour emergency towing, roadside assistance, lost key and lockout service, map routing assistance and theft as well as hit-and-run protection. The company also offers guaranteed asset protection (GAP) coverage. 
Key contact: Bill Gilman, senior vice president of sales, (210) 788-2555 or bill.gilman@amtrustgroup.com
 

Filed Under: AmTrust, CampersEdge, contract, extended, RV, RVBusiness, service, Towbusters

Don’t Look Back

By: Jeff Hatch

February 03, 2017

Keep Your Focus on the Future With a Certified Pre-Owned Program That Gives Independent Dealers an Edge With Millennial Car Buyers
 
An axiom of military history says that generals spend all their time planning to fight the last war, making them ill-prepared for the next war. 
   That same thing is happening with vehicle dealers today. They are planning for the future as they did with the past. 
   The past was about the baby boomers. The future belongs to the millennials, and they are very different shoppers. 
   Unlike their parents, millennials are ultra-frugal about their purchase of vehicles. Big box dealerships with their $20 million price tags that impressed their parents are a turn-off and an unneeded expense to this group. 
   The millennial generation likes to buy vehicles others have taken the depreciation on – but they also show a tendency toward the security provided by new car warranties.
   That makes the millennial group perfect for the used car industry for a couple of reasons.
   For one, used car dealers can couple vehicles that have depreciated with a remaining factory warranty. And they can certify pre-owned vehicles as a viable way to let millennial buyer enter into vehicle ownership. 
   Two factors make the millennial demographic predisposed to looking at the certified pre-owned option. 
   The first is their propensity to buy used cars, and with that, a higher rate of acceptance of CPO vehicles. 
   The second is their desire to be secure from the added expenses caused by mechanical breakdown. That makes a majority of millennial used vehicle purchasers open to a certified vehicle purchase. 
   Millennial buyers consider themselves much savvier buyers than their parents were because of their ability to use mobile devices. But they are not necessarily as educated on all aspects of CPO as their predecessors. 
   A study conducted this year by NADA Used Car Guide found 50 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds – millennials – said they were slightly or not at all familiar with CPO programs, a higher percentage than older generations.
   They are, however, willing to learn, and they will add value to the product and increase their purchases of CPO vehicles when they are educated on those aspects. 
   Even though they are looking for the security provided by CPO, they are not sure about the parts of the certification process that provide that security. Millennials are much less likely to understand the value of the inspection aspect of the program, nor do they in general grasp the warranty portion. 
   But, like other buyers, when those components of the program are explained, millennials’ chances of purchasing a CPO unit rise. According to Autotrader’s 2015 CPO Study, 68 percent of used car shoppers said they would consider buying a CPO vehicle from the beginning, but once they learned the definition of what CPO really means, that number rose to 83 percent. 
   One of the most compelling aspects of marketing to the millennial generation is their willingness to learn and accept new ideas – that is, as long as the learning can be done via the Internet. That’s where millennials shops and learn about products. 
   Autotrader’s 2015 Automotive Buyer Influence Study found 74 percent of online shoppers say they use a smartphone or tablet to do their research – almost double the percentage from the previous year’s study – and millennial customer are at the forefront of that trend. 
   The Internet is the most likely place for a millennial to find out about certified pre-owned program, other than a personal visit to the dealership. The problem with customers finding out about the benefits of CPO after they’ve done their dealership research is, while it helps sell the vehicle, it doesn’t help convince customer s to visit your store. 
   Marketing to social media outlets with an educational message about CPO is the best way to reach this very valuable group of consumers. Millennials shoppers are much more likely to get their information from those sources – and to process and believe it – than the preceding generations.
   Reaching millennials means getting those customers to your website. While they very much rely on in-person sales experience, their purchase process begins on their tablet or smartphone, long before they arrive at the dealership. 
   Carrying certified pre-owned vehicles that hit this group’s “cool factor” is the best way to reach the segment. Using search criteria millennials prefer increases the likelihood they will see you first. 
   Millennials may dream of Audi, Mercedes and BMW, but they are more likely to search for Honda, Chevrolet, Toyota and Ford, in that order. They also have a penchant for off-brand or discontinued vehicles like the Chrysler Pacifica, Dodge Magnum and Chevrolet TrailBlazer. 
   Factory certification programs only certify up to six years, so independent used car dealers who can find a reputable national certification program that will certify back to the mid-2000s and beyond, such as the NIADA Certified program, can attract customers who are looking for those special vehicles and still want the safety and reassurance provided by CPO inspections and warranties. 
   Millennial customers are going to spend more time on third-party and dealer websites than their older counterparts. People who spend the most time on those sites tend to be CPO shoppers – or they become CPO shoppers during the shopping experience. 
   The more time customers spend looking on the Internet, the more they are able to focus on specific models and equipment and the more time they have to learn the advantages of a particular dealer’s services, commitments and ethics, which can be broadcast on the dealers’ sites and are an integral part of a CPO program.
   Millennial shoppers are looking for security in their vehicle purchase and ownership, and having a warranty can create that peace of mind for buyers who cannot afford a new vehicle or just want to spend as little as possible to avoid the depreciation attached to the purchase of a new vehicle.
   CPO is more important to this frugal generation because they don’t want to save money by buying a used vehicle only to discover they have bought someone else’s problems. Using tools such as Carfax, AutoCheck or any of the vehicle history reports gives a sense of the vehicle’s past, and an inspection and a warranty provide additional peace of mind. 
   That has a real tangible value in the view of the millennial buyer. Even frugal car buyers see a real monetary value and willingly pay a premium for a certified vehicle. In fact, according to Autotrader’s 2014 Certified Pre-Owned Study, millennial CPO purchasers pay an average of $2,000 more for a vehicle that has been certified.
   Finding the right vehicles for that group of buyers and a certification process that they can buy into – along with announcing on your website a commitment to the certification process and a great partnership to deliver the coverage to the customer – is a sure way to attract millennials’ business.
   The most common reason consumers don’t purchase certified vehicles is simply a lack of awareness of CPO programs. Autotrader’s 2015 CPO Study showed that while consumers’ familiarity with CPO is steadily rising, only 49 percent of used car shoppers surveyed said they were familiar with certified pre-owned vehicles. 
   But when they learn about what’s involved in the CPO process, most consumers see the value in the inspection and warranty. The same Autotrader study found the peace of mind that comes with certification and warranty are the two top reasons cited by customers for buying CPO vehicles. 
   That means if you can get the millennial customers to your website, it becomes a matter of selling the customer on the right car – one that fills their needs but still leaves room for the protection that generation demands in the products they buy. 
   In other words, if you can get your message to where millennials shop, 90 percent of those shoppers are going to see value in the CPO inspection process and the warranty attached to it.
   It is very apparent from market research that the places millennials prefer to get their information are online from third-party sites, and the dealer’s own website is the next-most popular place. Where they do not go for information are OEM sites – they prefer unbiased accounts to what they perceive as propaganda from the manufacturer.
   Millennial customers are the future of the automotive industry, which should be music to the independent used car dealer’s ears. Those buyers are not going to behave as their parents did. Things that turn on their parents, such as the glitz and glamour of new car facilities and the prestige of new car ownership, are not the kinds of things likely to ensnare millennials.
   While many auto dealers continue to approach their target marketing from a baby boomer mindset, those who tailor their marketing and operations toward the millennial generation will find their stores staying relevant to a huge vehicle buying demographic for many years. 
   So how do independent dealers move forward from yesterday’s playbook of success and prepare for this buying segment’s preferences? 
   They must first recognize this is a different that is going to behave in a different manner from its predecessors and must therefore be approached in a different manner.
   Independents will have to find ways to reach millennials in their favorite social media spots. Dealers might have to stock vehicles to which today’s younger buyers assign a certain cachet of ownership.
   Millennials are not willing to forgo the security of warranties and service contracts to get these older vehicles. That makes it important to find a national partner for the certification process that has the three items it takes to be a good finance product – claims, coverage and an overall drive toward customer service – and can reach back to the early 2000s to cover the vehicles the millennial generation values and can afford.
   Aligning with a program like NIADA CPO that does all that allows independent used car dealers to attract millennial buyers to their vehicles and deals using their lower overhead.
   Millennials want to be able to shop using smartphones and texting for communication until they are ready to meet face-to-face, but they also want a dealership experience and a demo ride when it is time to buy. Millennial buyers care most about the warranty and inspection and will pay a premium for it, and will become your loyal customer for life. 
   While others are still chasing the boomers, you can set up a program geared toward the future, selling to the millennial generation via the media they dwell in. 
 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: William Carr is a longtime auto industry veteran in sales, management and training and a regional training manager for Warrantech Automotive, Inc. administrator of the NIADA Certified Pre-Owned program. For more information on the NIADA CPO program, visit www.niadacertified.com/dealers. 
 
This article originally appeared in the January 2017 edition of Used Car Dealer magazine and can be found online at: http://bit.ly/2ihlGVx

Filed Under: Car, certified, customers, Dealer, millennials, NIADA, pre-owned, Used

Is Your Extended Service Plan Program Fully Supported?

By: Jeff Hatch

February 01, 2017

Having an extended service plan program that fits your business model is important. But it’s just one piece of the puzzle. Have you considered how your program is supported? Without the proper infrastructure, it might not be as effective as it could be. Making sure your customers are taken care of is as essential as the contents of a well-designed service contract and vital to the overall success of your business.
 
At Warrantech, we continuously strive to improve the quality of service provided to all customers. We believe that quality has to be the foundation of everything that we do and everything that we represent. To us, customer service is not just a team or a process, it does not have a starting point or an ending point – it is part of the culture in everything we touch.
 
To bolster this approach, Warrantech employs a dedicated Quality Assurance Department that reports directly to our Call Center Director, identifying strengths and weaknesses, and effectively managing the workforce to optimize service delivery. This department serves as the foundation for our call center as they monitor all personnel on a daily basis and provide performance feedback on: 
 
Professionalism 
Customer interaction 
Procedural adherence 
Claims adjudication 
System usage 
System documentation 
Call lengths 
 
We also make sure that customer service is readily available. Customers can file claims through a dedicated toll-free phone number, email, web chat or Claims360, our proprietary online platform. We even support mail and faxed claims as well. 
 
To handle escalated customer issues and complaints, we have created a Presidential Team. This team, which is located within the call center, maintains a close relationship with each of our partners, the Account Manager(s) and executive teams. Their task is to work with a client in the event of an escalation to ensure the best possible service. This team receives referrals from the call center associates, direct from our clients, from executive escalations and from all forms of social media. 
 
Any customer who seeks to speak to a supervisor or is contacting us for the same issue on more than one occasion is immediately transferred to the Presidential Team. These associates are equipped with advanced customer service training and problem resolution and have the full power and authority to make the appropriate decision by working with the client to ensure that together we are achieving customer satisfaction. The Presidential Team member owns the service experience through completion and documents every aspect of the resolution. 
 
The information that is recorded by the Presidential Team is reviewed monthly by call center management and Warrantech executive management, as well as the training department to identify process and procedure improvements needed to avoid future escalations. Supervisors use the feedback from the Presidential Team in their weekly meetings and individual coaching sessions with their associates. This approach creates a customer who is not only satisfied with the outcome of the transaction, but a customer who walks away from the experience with a positive outlook on the service contract, Warrantech and, most importantly, our clients. 
 
Warrantech Support Process At A Glance 
  • Every customer contact is recorded and stored
  • Appropriate staffing levels are maintained and based on program, time, date and SLAs
  • Unique telephone numbers and websites are utilized for each client
  • IVR is used to appropriately route calls based on program, contact type, etc.
  • IVR provides contact center associates with customer information prior to transfer
  • OEM and/or partner calls can be immediately routed to the appropriate entity
  • All customer contacts are monitored in real time to ensure that all service-level agreements are met

Visit warrantech.com or give us a call at 800.833.8801 to learn more about how we can support your business.

Filed Under: customers, quality, satisfaction, service, support, Warrantech

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