Customer satisfaction is increasing and feedback from members and employers is cautiously becoming more positive: the result of two years of hard work on increasing customer focus. Rob Schormans, board member of the Members and Employers Services, is giving us an update on the progress to date.
At the beginning of this year, even before the outbreak of the corona crisis, Rob Schormans and his team spent a day at the Efteling amusement park. Not so much for a ride in the Python or the Flying Dutchman (or maybe just a bit), but to gain inspiration: how does the fantasy-themed amusement park interact with its customers and what can APG learn from it? The working visit is part of the shift towards customer focus, which Members and Employers Services have been making for the last two years, in anticipation of the new pension system. The basic principle: empathizing with all pension-related moments in the lives of members and fully supporting them in this with maximum appreciation. That is not a matter of simply flipping a switch. Implementing all changes takes time, emphasizes Schormans, who is responsible for Marketing Operations within Members and Employers Services management. Still, the first results of the new approach are now starting to emerge and they are positive.
How was the customer served before: what changes did you have to make?
“APG’s main focus used to be on administering the pension benefits to the best of its ability. We lacked focus on people and the organizations behind that pension. Anyone who was new to the pension fund, became incapacitated for work or had lost a loved one, received a business-like letter with complicated terms such as ‘value transfer’, sometimes from several departments in a single week. Those letters didn’t do justice to the emotional side of important life events. Besides, people often found it difficult to understand what was in the letter.”
So that needed to change. How did you go about that?
“The emphasis had to shift to the needs of members and employers. We therefore adopted an agile working style to provide them with a faster service. We’ve also started working in multidisciplinary teams, not just pension specialists, but also IT people and marketers, for example. Together, you gain a quicker understanding of what members and employers need. We’ve mapped out fourteen important live events from a pension point of view, from memorable events such as a new job, marriage and birth to painful events such as divorce and death. We also examined the bottlenecks in our services, such as the complaints procedure and the payment of survivor’s pensions.”
What do customers notice of the changes in practical terms?
“When future members register with a fund, they now receive a friendly welcome card first. By doing this, you immediately set a warm tone. In addition, we try to write our letters as comprehensibly as possible and communicate more digitally. Nearly sixty percent of members indicate that they want to receive communication digitally. We’ll be testing these letters or mailings and our website in member’s panels: do people understand it? We also seek contact more often, which allows you to dose the information better and build up a relationship. For example, nowadays, we send people a card for their ‘retirement anniversary’, that’s the day they registered with their pension fund.”