‘We fight for the voice of the customer’

Published on: 9 October 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.

Steffie van Gils (34) is customer experience manager at APG.


Isn’t it boring to work in the pensions industry?

“Absolutely not! Pension is crucial in one’s life. It involves money you have worked for many years and, if all goes well, continue to live on for many years to come. Applying for pension is a once in a lifetime event. It is a huge moment in one’s life and has great impact. I truly enjoy, together with my colleagues, ensuring that everything is arranged as well as possible and that people know where they stand, resulting in them taking that step feeling safe.”


But this probably wasn’t the job you dreamt of as a girl?

“LOL, no, it wasn’t. Other professions were much more tangible back then. I was trained as a journalist and started doing more work in marketing and communication as a freelancer. After I moved to South Limburg, I ended up working for APG in Heerlen. So, this job really crossed my path. We are now five years down the line; I enjoy it so much more than I anticipated.”


What is it that you do exactly, as a customer experience manager?

“I am involved in everything to do with customer perception and customer experience. From customer experience, CX, we look across all departments with the view of the participants: how are the services experienced by them? Letters, website, the answer given on the telephone, it all has to be one logical narrative. The department CX was established at APG only recently. The interest of the customer has always been our priority, but internally we sometimes had a different interpretation of that interest. Now, our standard starting point is: we shouldn’t come up with ideas ourselves on what the participant wants and finds important, we have to ask him or her. This department was established from that starting point. In a world in which customers don’t really have a choice, the entire organization still has the intrinsic drive to place the customer at the heart of everything we do.”

Our standard starting point is: we shouldn’t come up with ideas ourselves on what the participant wants and finds important, we have to ask him or her

How do you check what the customer wants?

“We ask customers to provide feedback in all kinds of different ways, to help us continually improve our services. By means of questionnaires, for example, we send those out quite often. We have steady consultative groups for some of the funds and these groups commit to us for a longer period of time. Whenever we come up with something new, we present the idea to the members. We also conduct interviews by telephone, during which we ask people questions about a certain topic. How do you experience this, how did that go, what can be improved? And people are also sent a text sometimes. We then ask: is this text clear to you or does it raise questions? The one form is a better fit sometimes than the other. That’s why we don’t use only one method. It can be quite suspenseful to ask customers to provide feedback, but they are very willing to participate. That’s really cool.”


What do customers specifically notice in terms of your work?

“I actually hope that customers don’t notice my work too much. We have done a good job when everything they were looking to arrange or asked went smoothly, if they didn’t encounter any problems and look back on that experience with a positive feeling. Ultimately, all teams within APG are the ones achieving this. I am just a link in the whole to get the process started.”

What do you do to relax?

“I usually enjoy visiting a museum or going out for dinner, but that is nearly non-existent right now due to corona. However, it is still possible to go for a walk and I just love watching Netflix. I really watch everything I possible can because I am very curious to see how other people look at the world. I can sometimes also profoundly disagree, but it is still educational.”


If we would call your colleagues, what would they say about you?

“Teammates recently referred to me as creative. I also hear quite often that I am cheerful and that my mood gives other people energy. I try to see and to track everyone. I am also an optimist, have plenty of hope and a good spirit. I enjoy every step forward. Everything is better than moving backward or coming to a standstill. Doing things a bit better every day, that’s what I derive my daily dose of energy from.”


What should customers be able to expect from you in the future?

“That we continue to fight to have their voices heard in all decisions that are made, small and large.”