Carola Schouten, minister of Poverty, Participation and Pensions, visited Pensioen Schoonmaak and APG in Amsterdam on Monday afternoon, in the run-up to the Pensioen3daagse (3-day pension event). The reason for the visit was the presentation of an innovative chat tool. This will enable Pensioen Schoonmaak to maintain low-threshold contact with participants in multiple languages in the future.
- The Pensioen3daagse is all about clear participant communication.
- Pensioen Schoonmaak’s participant file consists of more than one hundred nationalities. A large proportion of these have a migration background.
- The Translation Tool helps participants to read and understand correspondence from Pensioen Schoonmaak themselves.
- The app was developed in close cooperation with APG's Growth Factory.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment (SZW) is bringing extra attention to the subject of pensions during the Pensioen3daagse on November 7, 8 and 9. And specifically professional and clear participant communication. It is a subject close to the heart of Pensioen Schoonmaak. “Given the multicultural background of our participants - cleaners and window cleaners - understandable language is a real challenge for us. But it’s also a challenge we don’t shy away from. By making smart use of technological developments, we can improve our participant communication in an affordable way,” Executive Director Tarik Uçar of Pensioen Schoonmaak explained to Minister Schouten.
As a first step, two years ago, Pensioen Schoonmaak made it mandatory for employers to share their employees’ email addresses with the fund. Uçar: “Digital communication is a spearhead of our communication policy; it allows us to reach our participants effectively.”
This line of thinking also plays a role in the development of innovations. “We deal with more than a hundred different nationalities. A large proportion of our participants have a migration background and a small pension averaging 1,600 euros per year. Reaching these participants to talk about pensions is particularly difficult because of the language barriers. And clear communication especially in the transition to the renewed pension system is very important,” Uçar says.
Translation tool in multiple languages
That is why Pensioen Schoonmaak developed a prototype translation app in collaboration with the GroeiFabriek, APG’s innovation hub. This allows the fund to quickly and effectively communicate with participants in multiple languages. “We want everyone to understand our website and letters. To be able to find information. And make the right pension choices. This can be difficult sometimes, because not everyone speaks the same language. Wouldn’t it be great if language were no longer a barrier and everyone could be informed in their native language? That was the challenge we wanted to take up together. And we succeeded”, Uçar tells us.
Over a hundred languages
The tool allows participants to scan a letter from Pensioen Schoonmaak, have it translated, simplified and read to them. “Research shows that participants have difficulty with the Dutch language. They are embarrassed about that. In fact, they have no idea where information starts or ends. So the app is primarily about translation. It helps participants to read and understand the letters they receive from Pensioen Schoonmaak, among other things,” says innovator Rob Tillmann of APG. He explains that the app will initially include four languages - Dutch, Polish, Turkish and English. This may be quickly scaled up to more than 100 languages. “We are seeing that it is working; the app really does remove barriers. They now understand the point being made. That puts a twinkle in the eyes of the participants; wonderful.”
This afternoon, Tillmann had a lot to say about the tool, for which several prototypes were developed. He also demonstrated the possibilities. Minister Schouten was visibly impressed. Some of APG's Client Contact Center (CCC) staff explained how difficult telephone communication with participants can be. Schouten also asked specific questions. Are your participants digitally savvy? Uçar: “They communicate a lot with cell phones. So the translation tool suits them well. Together with the Growth Factory, we looked at this explicitly. We actually always do that. For example, our participants are also on Facebook a lot. Well, then we're on there, too.”
Uçar sees huge benefits from the rapid advances in technology. “You can go a long way these days with translation programs like Google Translate. And who knows what we’ll be able to do in five years. That is why we are fully committed to this, and had research done to develop this chat tool. We can deploy the app in the short term.”
The focus is on the participant
Uçar believes that the development of new communication tools also fits into the fund’s role. “Our job is to do everything in the interest of the participants. Whether it’s about reducing costs, achieving returns or making an impact with investments. To encourage diversity and responsible commissioning, applying for statutory schemes for participants or by making sure that participants can understand our correspondence in their native language.” As the administrator, APG is an extension of the fund in this, Uçar said. “They have the same goal, which is to put the participant first. The translation tool is a very good example of what that shared thought can lead to.”