“People mostly ask us: is it possible for me to retire early?”

Published on: 9 September 2020

Who are the people answering your telephone call when you have a question about pensions? And who are the people ensuring that you receive your pension statement every year? What are the underlying factors in making sure there is enough money later on for your pension payment? We take you with us to have a look behind the scenes.

Stefan Ochse manages the customer contact center (CCC) at APG.

What is it that you do exactly, as the head of the CCC?

“I am responsible for the customer contact center, where I manage about 100 contact specialists. Nowhere else the voice of the customer is heard as expressly as at our department. My main task is streamlining that process. In addition, I make sure all of us know what we are working towards. One of our objectives is for customers to appreciate us to such an extent that, should it ever be possible for people to choose their own pension fund, they would still choose us because we provide good service.”


How did you end up in this job?

“After I finished my law study, I became an agent at the CCC in 2014. I would have liked to find work more associated with my study but that was very difficult at that time. APG seemed to be a great employer. And after I got promoted a few times, I ended up where I am right now.”


What do customers notice in terms of your work?

“I believe that, thanks to the way we manage our department, our people do whatever they can to help our customers. If we do a good job, the customer really feels supported by us. That means we are of added value at important moments in his or her life.”


What are the questions most frequently asked?

“Customers mainly contact us when their retirement age is approaching and their pension has to be applied for. Questions such as ‘How much pension will I receive?’ or ‘What would be the consequences for my pension should I retire early?’ are very much the order of the day. But we also receive plenty of questions on life events, like getting married, relocation or changing jobs. After all, it is all about the income now, later on and in the future. That has to be arranged properly.”


What type of things do you encounter most often during customer contacts?

“Unfortunately, we are still noticing matters that are not running as smoothly as they should, meaning customers have to contact us unnecessarily. Think about deadlines that are expiring or letters that are not clear enough. We are happy to see other departments contacting us increasingly more often to, for example, show us a preview of the letters that were drawn up. We also stimulate our employees to share the feedback they receive from customers with the rest of the organization. This enables all of us to improve our work a bit more, over and over again.”

Eventually you want the customer to feel truly understood and helped

What is the biggest challenge in your work?

“To determine the direction customer contact is going, in a general sense but also specifically within APG. The near future will provide us with, for example, voice bots and computerized support. But customer contact continues to be about human actions. It will never be fully automated. We are investigating how we are able to predict the need of the customer even better based on the technology, algorithms and data. His of her voice has to be become increasingly leading within the organization. We are thinking about a future in which we are not waiting for customers to call us, but in which we approach them proactively in order to provide support. For example, if we see that they visited the digital pension environment and still have questions. That still feels a bit scary, it is far-reaching. But I am sure we will find a way that is fitting for the need of the customer. I can certainly see a future for this concept. To ensure that customer contact does not continue to be the old-fashioned demand-supply, but that we evolve along with the needs of the outside world.”


What should the customer be able to expect from you in the future in concrete terms?

“We are obtaining more and more insight into the needs of our customers. We want to adjust our service provision accordingly. Next year, we will try to introduce a new way of linking inbound calls to our employees. That way, we can link the most empathic employees to the calls that mainly require relieving customers of their concerns. The same applies to employees with the most substantive knowledge: they can be perfectly matched with conversations during which substantive questions are more likely to be asked. Eventually you want the customer to feel truly understood and helped. And I believe this development is essential in order to achieve this goal.”