Dialled in to smarter technology

by Graeme Riddoch   •  

Full disclosure. I’m writing this after having just spent 30 minutes dealing with an overseas call centre. Could have been a simple five minute conversation, but a combination of a rudimentary chatbot, and an operator working from a script, turned it into an episode of Fawlty Towers.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m big on technology, but only when it’s used well. I hired a car last weekend and spent most of the journey trying to turn the air temperature down! I had to scroll through any number of touch screens before I found the right one. What’s wrong with a straightforward dial or push button?

The upshot of a 30 minute, less than inspiring, customer service experience was a decision to switch to a new mobile network. We take for granted that our sim card will work, so the only differentiators are the cost and what happens when there’s a problem needing sorted. Which means if you have a really bad service experience, it will stick.

Necessary evil?

Anyway, back to technology and in particular, pensions administration. Often, it’s used as a cost cutting measure, rather than a tool to enhance the customer experience. That’s a symptom of customer service being seen as a necessary evil, and a cost rather than a benefit. It could also be something to do with pension scheme members being seen as “captive”; it’s not as if they can opt to join a different company scheme whilst remaining with the same employer.

Chatbots are becoming more common in large scale pensions administration functions. Given their current capabilities, they’re the equivalent of an automated switchboard.

They’ll develop over time but could you ever envisage discussing tax relievable pension savings with one? Even on more basic topics such as, “I’m thinking of retiring”, they quickly run out of steam.

They can also mask an underlying problem, which is that the administration platform can’t provide the service an administrator wants to deliver, or that a member expects. If the platform were able to deliver information accurately first time, it could cut down the level of inbound queries and calls chasing a response.

If it’s easy to use – guess what?

If retirement estimates and transfer values were automated and delivered in real time it would make it easy for members to serve themselves and dramatically reduce the demand on call centres and administration teams. It would also free up the administrator to do high value work.

That ideal is now reality. We recently launched a defined benefit phone app that delivers real time benefits and live transfer values, and allows members to keep their personal details up to date.

Although it’s still early days, the registration rate has been surprisingly strong. The first scheme to take the app has over 55% and the second 75%. We are seeing lots of initial activity. The trick will be to keep people using it as long as it suits them. We don’t want to mandate its usage. People can still call in or write. But what we are finding is that if you make something easy to use, people will use it. Who knew!

This is where the intelligent use of technology comes in. Most people now have a  smartphone and are comfortable with how apps work. Setting up face or fingerprint recognition is the same regardless of the app. Once registered on our app, using a personalised QR code, the customer can self-select either a PIN, or biometrics. That makes getting back into the app a breeze.

So, applying technology well can be a win for everyone, offering reduced costs and a better customer experience. 

Now where’s the dial to turn the radio down?

Further reading

Dividend tax hike, but pension funds and ISAs exempt

by John Wilson   •  

Gilts go from gold to green

by Brendan McLean   •  

National Insurance contributions to rise by 1.25%

by John Wilson   •  

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