How Well Do You Know Your Service Plan/Warranty Administrator?

By: Jeff Hatch

December 23, 2014

Service contracts and extended warranties can be a great source of revenue for retailers, manufacturers and distributors. And their use as a customer satisfaction and retention tool can never be overstated. But what happens if your administrator ceases operations or is otherwise unable to service your business?

To be an approved administrator, certain licenses must be obtained along with proof of financial stability. Most administrators in the marketplace satisfy this last requirement by securing a contractual liability insurance policy (“CLP”) issued from an insurance company. This CLP requires the insurance company to “stand in” for the administrator in the event the obligations to the consumer have not been met. But what happens if the insurance company cancels the administrator, cannot provide administrative capabilities or ceases operations?

While the name of the administrator, and often the insurer, is listed in the service contract, when the customer seeks payment of a claim or a return of their funds, and the administrator and/or insurer no longer answer their phones, where does the customer turn?

Throughout the years, there have been numerous instances where either the administrator and/or the insurer of a service contract program have gone out of business or otherwise ceased operations. When this happens, your customers may not get their claims paid or their refunds processed and YOU will be their target of ire and will often be compelled to make good to the customer out of your own pocket.  How do you prevent this?

At AMT Warranty and its subsidiary Warrantech, we believe it is critical that you know and understand the capabilities and financial wherewithal of your administrator and your insurer. Conducting due diligence and asking the right questions can make all the difference between a service plan program that provides you with revenue and customer satisfaction and one that is a customer service and financial nightmare.

To ensure your service contract providers will be there when your customers need them most, we believe you should be asking the following:

• How long have they been in business?
• What is the experience and background of their management team?
• What is the size of their business?
• What is the ownership structure of their business?
• What is their Better Business Bureau rating?
• Who is their insurer?
• How many insurers have they had over the past 10 years?
• Are they and the insurer under common ownership?
• What is the insurance structure of the CLP (e.g., is the insurance company standing in on the “first dollar” of risk or are they simply providing an excess of loss policy)?
• If your administrator is using an “excess of loss policy,” is your administrator reserving sufficient monies needed for the potential risk not covered under the insurer provided policy?
• How long has their insurance company been in business?
• What is their financial size and A.M. Best rating?
• Are the respective companies compliant with SOX, PCI, SSAE 16, etc.?
• Do they have audited or public financials?
• Have you visited their facilities?
• Are they outsourcing any critical functions?
• Are you doing reference checks?

A well designed and maintained service contract is only possible if all of the parties to the transaction are fully capable of performing their various roles and can weather periodic or irregular changes to their business model or performance, especially if your provider is not vertically integrated with the insurance company.

Filed Under: administrator, business, claims, contract, financials, insurer, manufacturers, retailers, service, warranty

Tips For Buying A Vehicle Service Contract

By: Jeff Hatch

December 17, 2014

A vehicle service contract (VSC) is a smart investment. It can help cover the cost of unexpected repairs and keep your vehicle running at its best. But how do you know if the plan is right for you? Here are a few questions you can ask your VSC salesperson to make sure you know exactly what you’re getting.  

How Much Does The VSC Cost?
Obviously, money is one of the most important factors in the decision-making process. Is your vehicle worth the investment? If so, you’ll want more coverage, which means more money. However, the amount you pay now could add up to hundreds of dollars in savings later. 

What Does The VSC Cover?
Consider your driving habits and the make and model of your vehicle. For instance, if the company who manufactures your car is known for the quality of their interior components and you plan on keeping your vehicle in a garage, then you probably don’t need paint and fabric protection as part of your VSC. 

How Long Does The VSC Last?
Again, the way you drive has a big impact. If you plan on keeping the vehicle for several years or know you’ll be spending a lot of time on the road, then having a VSC makes a lot of sense. You’ll also want to know if your vehicle is currently under a manufacturer’s warranty since the VSC typically goes into effect after the manufacturer’s warranty expires.

Who Backs The VSC?
Make sure that the company behind your plan is reputable. Some good indicators to help determine credibility include an A.M. Best rating, which demonstrates financial strength and stability, and a Better Business Bureau rating, which assesses the company’s business practices. Also, look at how long the company has been in business and examine their background.

How Are Services And Claims Handled?
Find out if the company has a network of service providers. Are they in your area and readily available to work on your vehicle? Once this has been determined, inquire about claim submission and processing. Can you submit claims online? Does the company have a reliable customer service department to assist you? And do they provide fast and convenient service to help get you back on the road as soon as possible?

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Any Other Questions You Might Have
You should never feel pressured into purchasing coverage that you don’t understand. If there is anything about your vehicle service contract that doesn’t make sense to you, don’t hesitate to ask. Always remember, it is the salesperson’s responsibility to assist you. If you don’t feel that you are getting the help you need to make a proper purchasing decision regarding your VSC, then you probably aren’t going to get the right help should something go wrong with your vehicle.

Got a question about one of our vehicle service contracts? Contact us online at https://warrantech.com/contact-us/ or call at 800.833.8801. We’re happy to help.

Filed Under: A.M., automotive, Best, Better, Bureau, Business, claims, contract, service, vehicle, VSC, Warrantech

Extended Service Plans: What’s Behind All The Fine Print?

By: Jeff Hatch

December 03, 2014

Using a single-source provider for underwriting and administration offers gains in profit and service.

The real question isn't what's behind the fine print, but rather who is behind the fine print of an extended service plan. In today's economic climate, retailers need to be diligent in determining who can financially back and service their products with plans that don't negatively impact bottom line results or customer relations. While some retailers prefer to act as their own administrator for service, the overhead costs and time required to facilitate work orders, customer service and repairs can often lead to eroding profits and dissatisfied customers. For retailers that opt to rely on an outside provider for administration or underwriting, it can expose your business and customers to financial risks and service levels that don't align with your business goals.

As a retailer, customers trust that you'll stand behind the products you sell with service plans they can rely on. Now, more than ever, retailers need to select partners that not only provide sound financial backing but also the service required to assist when customers need it most. By working with a single-source provider for underwriting and administration of extended service plans, retailers can focus on sales knowing that the money saved and service gained from a customized program can deliver profitable margins and elevated service that keep customers coming back.

Understand the Plan

Knowing the difference between a credible underwriter and administrator is an important distinction to make and one that definitely needs to be evaluated before committing to a company or a program. As a first step, make sure you understand the responsibilities and differences between an underwriter and administrator. An administrator is the company that handles the day-to-day administration of the product's extended service plan such as processing claims and accepting monthly payments for the service. Often, the administrator's name and contact information is featured in the customer literature about the plan. The underwriter is the company that is ultimately responsible for the financial backing of claims according to the terms and conditions of the plan. 

Since not all administrators underwrite their own plans and vice versa, there are a number of extended service plan options available that allow retailers to customize a plan that's right for their products. However, the logistics of how a plan is carried out and who carries it out can reveal service inefficiencies, limited profitability and financial burden. In fact, according to some sources, a significant percent of administrators don't underwrite their own plans. The volatility of this approach can cause a number of problems for retailers including lack of funding or term changes that can become the retailer's responsibility in the event the provider declares bankruptcy. While this used to seem like an improbable situation, the recent filings of numerous multinational insurance companies make this harsh scenario a genuine reality.

Once you understand the roles of an administrator and underwriter, evaluating the provider's approach to maintaining financial responsibility and customer service will help determine the best program for your needs.

Financial Accountability

The most important point to consider when evaluating single-source plan providers or underwriters is the financial strength of the insurance company backing the program. If the company is financially unable to provide the benefits required, then you lose money, customers and credibility. Publicly traded insurance companies are an open book when it comes to examining financial status. Some areas to pay attention to include: historically good capital, recent acquisitions, ongoing organic growth and operating cash flows. Several organizations, including A.M. Best, Standard & Poor's and Moody's Investor Service, rate the financial strength of insurance companies. These ratings are among the most widely used indicators of an insurance carrier's financial health, or lack of it. Using these tools to assist in your evaluation is not only credible but universally accepted.

Customer Focus

The most important thing to your customers when they purchase a product with an extended service plan is how they will be cared for should something go wrong with the product. When a product fails, you need to rely on a responsive administrator to diagnose and troubleshoot the problem for customers in a timely and efficient manner. To help evaluate response rates, retailers should look at a provider's First Call Resolution rate, technical training for staff and network of service centers to ensure convenient and expeditious repair of products. In addition, service offerings such as fulfillment which includes carry-in, in-home and depot offerings or fulfillment by means of a new product, gift card or co-pay voucher delivered to the customer help maximize customer satisfaction.

Excellence in customer service is not an idle commitment so it's also important the provider shows how they successfully track, record and evaluate customer satisfaction to ensure they are meeting service level commitments. Another aspect to consider is how the administrator evaluates product reliability to continually develop competitive rates. Through comprehensive risk analysis, the provider can structure the extended warranty program in the most cost-effective way for the consumer yet profitable for the retailer.

While there are several factors a retailer needs to consider when choosing an extended service plan program, often the easiest and most profitable is working with a single-source provider for administering and underwriting the program. By selecting a full-service provider, you also have the benefit of flexibility in plans, categories, features and benefits to fit your needs and, more specifically, your customers' needs. While the fine print can be a bit overwhelming, selecting a single-source provider with proven credentials can help enhance revenues and build customer loyalty.

Filed Under: administrator, extended, plan, provider, retailer, service, underwriter