INSIGHT: Two top mobility retailers discuss measures to protect customers


200 miles apart, Ability Plus and Seacroft Mobility both run highly successful mobility retail chains. One thing they have in common is how they incorporate insurance products as a central part of their offering. Here is why they regard insurance as such an important element of their businesses.

Between them, Ability Plus and Seacroft Mobility operate a clutch of stores that serve thousands of people. Alongside wheelchairs, recliners and mobility scooters, both businesses regard insurance products as a key tool in their repertoire.

As veterans of the mobility industry, management on both sides are fully aware of the importance of covering clients with insurance, not only for safety purposes but also to boost business during quieter times.

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Speaking about his experience with insurance products, Ben Johnson, CEO of Ability Plus, says his company strongly pushes for customers to insure their mobility products.

He notes that in the mobility industry specifically, insurance products are “tailored nicely” to the elderly and disabled, ensuring it provides the right cover for them.

Mark Bates founded his eponymous company in the 90s.

One of the insurance companies offering specialist options for its customers is Mark Bates Ltd, which has one of the most diverse range of policies designed specifically for older people.

From mobility scooter policies through to caravan and home insurance, Mark Bates Ltd’s range of cover provides dealers with numerous new revenue streams and end-users with one provider for all their needs.

Ability Plus has worked with Mark Bates Ltd for five years, while Seacroft Mobility has been a partner for 12. For both companies, working with the provider has helped to ensure their customers are fully protected and they can offer the full package when they make an equipment sale.

Johnson says to him, insurance products provided by Mark Bates Ltd are “very easily explained” and combines well with the support it offers retailers. The insurance firm is relatively old fashioned in that it believes in face-to-face training, however it is innovative in the way it aims to support dealers with new and varied products.

Ben Johnson, CEO of Ability Plus, with his father, who founded the retailer.

Describing the kind of support Mark Bates Ltd gives to its partner firms, Daniel Swain of Seacroft Mobility’s management team, says that staff at the insurance provider are always on the end of the phone if needed. “They have worked with us on tailored in-house training, which has been invaluable,” Swain says.

“This has also enabled both the management and staff within our company to put names to faces, which has further strengthened our working relationship.”

In similar tones, Johnson points out that support is always available, whether it’s in point of sale, a phone call to the office or consistent training from field reps. A strong relationship with suppliers is key to industry success and in this day and age, physical dealerships need as much support as they can get.

Swain notes: “We have only ever partnered with Mark Bates for insurance products. As Seacroft Mobility has grown, our relationship with it and the range of products available has also grown. We have developed a strong working relationship with Mark Bates.

Ability Plus strongly encourages all powered product-users to be insured.

“We know we can trust them and because of that trust we have no problem in recommending their insurance to our customers. We would not feel comfortable recommending a product that we did not have faith in and we clearly would not risk the reputation of our own company.”

Of course, insurance is vital for end-users to keep them and the public safe. The number of serious incidents involving mobility scooters is increasing and there are now more calls for insurance to be made compulsory on scooters.

Swain says that Seacroft Mobility’s team believes that any mobility scooter or powerchair leaving its stores should be insured. The dealer now offers full 24-hour breakdown cover on all of its hire scooters and powerchairs, giving its hire customers – and itself – peace of mind.

Similarly, Johnson believes it is “paramount” that dealers provide the correct insurance policy for the appropriate mobility equipment. In fact, he is one of many professionals in the sector to back the idea that insurance on scooters should be made compulsory. Swain, meanwhile, believes it is only a matter of time until new regulations are brought in.

“We actively encourage all our customers to be insured before leaving our stores. We live in a society where people are far more conscious of making claims and the price of a policy is a small price to pay for peace of mind.

“We believe it will become compulsory and will become accepted as part of the package when making a scooter or powerchair purchase. We all accept this without question when we purchase a car and see no reason why scooters and powerchairs should be any different.”

From a business angle, insurance products are arguably just as important as they are for public protection. Swain says that Seacroft and businesses like it are increasingly competing against the internet. Being able to offer insurance and warranty packages with its products helps it to stand out from the internet companies.

He continues: “It is important for our customers to know that they are fully insured if something were to go wrong on their product purchased from us. It is also important that the customer knows we have a full team of mobility engineers who are able to carry out the necessary insurance repairs.”

Johnson agrees. He says that alongside the obvious benefits to Ability Plus’ customers, as a business, the commission on new applications and potential renewals is a welcome additional income stream.

Considering mobility dealers need as many sources of revenue as possible in today’s ruthless retail climate, it is hardly surprising that firms like Ability Plus and Seacroft Mobility are keen to maintain strong relationships with Mark Bates Ltd.

The majority of distributors can now see the benefits – and necessity – of offering insurance products. But there are still plenty of businesses yet to snap up the opportunity and tap into the expanding sector.

Tags : ability plusmark batesseacroft mobility
Joe Peskett

The author Joe Peskett

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