A recent headline in the Australian Financial Review noted that “Super funds [are] on [a] spending spree to improve customer service.” That’s good news. Delivering high-quality customer service to super fund members is a laudable goal. But should it be more than a goal? Is it time for APRA to add a metric for customer service to the Your Super, Your Future (YSYF) performance rankings? The answer to those questions is yes.
Super funds may read this and caution that the costs to boost service levels will lead to higher per-member costs. Indeed, as the AFR article notes, many funds are already directing significant sums into hiring, training and implementing new technologies to improve processing and reduce complaints.
But better service doesn’t have to mean higher costs; improved member engagement shouldn’t be an example of “you get what you pay for.” Transparency is another consideration. Clear descriptions of what types of service are offered, for which products, and how information can be obtained might help set member expectations for service delivery. Drawing on technologies already widely used for other customer-facing businesses, super funds can deliver excellent and tailored customer experiences without impeding their other APRA metrics.
The Drive Towards Digital-First
Options exist to improve investor interactions across the engagement ecosystem, from how the fund does its processing to the digital tools and portals used for member self-servicing and education.
“Digital-first” and straight-through processing (STP) is the goal. They eliminate the friction and lack of transparency that often creates servicing hiccups or inaccuracies. By eliminating clunky and dated technology and the manual work often needed to connect disparate systems and data flows, super funds can dramatically improve how they work. Across the entire processing environment, the use of automation and intelligence can improve efficiencies and the flow of information. A better workflow and access to more complete information can then improve how work is done for members.
But not all automation is the right automation. Intelligence and the use of robotics play a vital role. Robotics can function as a valued bridge between dated systems and applications, helping to create an end-to-end STP model. While achieving STP through more modern technologies like APIs creates a more future-forward model, robotics can play a strong interim role. As well, robotics take highly uniform, repetitive tasks and perform them with a greater degree of accuracy and consistency than humans. For example, if some paper still exists, advanced digitalization capabilities use intelligence to flag missing or inaccurate data, reducing the volume of manual oversight and speeding the completion of work.
Additionally, modern enhancements through digital and microservices-based technology can help super funds more effectively respond to future member needs while controlling the costs associated with maintaining and upgrading operations, both near term and over time.
Increasing—and improving—the scope of self-service options is another path to boosting member satisfaction. Using data and intelligence to deliver the right information at the right time through 24/7 access makes self-service a valued option. Whether online or via mobile, the ability for a member to perform a range of functions easily, smoothly and intuitively is an important outcome. From filing claims to changing investment allocations, to completing a change of address or other forms, the use of online applications can also remove extra work (and cost) in the back office and reduce the number of staff needed to complete such tasks. That creates a double benefit of better outcomes and lower overall fees.
Importantly, a digital-first model doesn’t mean that all human interaction is removed from the process. Members do not need to be left in a frustrating chat-bot cycle or endless phone service prompt loop when they have questions or need help. Automation frees up processing resources and lets staff spend more time on higher-value member engagement matters. And, with a digital-first model, the information needed to address a member's query or need is readily and quickly available, improving overall case management. Technology and intelligence can be used to identify member problem areas or service bottlenecks, allowing for more rapid and targeted improvements.
Achieving faster, easier-to-obtain, more complete, more thorough, more accurate outcomes? Those tick the boxes of many customer expectations and are the foundation of excellent service.
Better Service; Better Outcomes
Excellent service does more than deliver satisfaction. When it comes to retirement savings, service quality can create a more supportive, less threatening and easier-to-navigate series of interactions that boost a person’s confidence and continued engagement in saving. In turn, ongoing engagement can help boost results and drive better lifelong outcomes. And that creates a win for everyone—super providers, members and even society as a whole.
The industry might not be ready to implement customer service metrics as a mandated third component of the YSYF rankings. But the tools and technologies exist to help funds ready themselves for a future where metrics on customer experience are a transparent and critical part of member choice.
To learn more business process outsourcing can help you provide a better member experience, download our "SS&C Business Process Outsourcing for Superannuation" brochure.
Written by Shaun McKenna
Chief Revenue Officer APAC