But what’s not commonly understood is the volume of enquiries this increased temporary engagement can generate, and the impact that might have on the core administration service.
Typically, we’ve seen bulk communications create an increase in member enquiries of between 15% and 30%, depending on the timing and nature of the announcement. Anything out of the ordinary or targeted, especially messages that focus on benefit or rule changes, will increase activity at the higher end, so it’s here in particular that preparation is key.
Preparing for an increase in member enquiries is often forgotten in the rush to send out announcements, but is essential to make your project a success and help you and your members avoid service issues. Being unprepared for an increase in member activity can create a poor member experience – helpline wait times can increase, SLA performance can be impacted and members may not have their questions answered if the right assets and messages haven’t been put in place.
So, here are a few things for trustees and sponsors to consider ahead of any new communication exercise.
Every announcement that’s sent to members will prompt some form of action, which can range from a simple update of contact information to more complex enquiries about benefit projections and options. Some can also encourage members to contact helplines to ask for clarification or guidance on how they are impacted by the announcement.
Although unpredictable, experienced administrators are able to assess the typical engagement they are likely to receive for different types of scheme announcement. Trustees and sponsors therefore need to tap into this knowledge to help ensure that sufficient resources are earmarked in advance.
The need for resource will vary according to the nature and timing of the announcement, as well as whether it is targeted or requires members to take action – so advance planning can make a real difference.
As a general rule to support strategic decisions, we have set out some typical member response rates below.
- General updates (0%-5%) – general announcements or changes issued to all members.
- Global or general changes (10%-15%) – announcing changes to legislation.
- Calls to action (15%-20%) – general request asking members to take action such as updating a nomination or registering for a website.
- Targeted prompt (20%-25%) – targeting a specific group of members with a tailored message.
- Benefit changes (20%-30%) – communicating changes to a members benefit such as a scheme closure, changes to investment options, pension increase exchanges, levelling options or GMP adjustments.
Timing and planning
Planning how and when announcements will be sent is critical to ensure your administrator has allocated your scheme sufficient resources to handle the influx of enquiries.
Given these announcements are over and above core scheme communication activity, it’s often best to avoid the period between March and May – as this is when members are receiving their usual information from the scheme. For large communications, or those being sent to many thousands of members, it’s also often useful to spread out the issuing period over a larger timeframe.
For email communications in particular, which often provoke a more instantaneous response from members, a phased announcement can help avoid significant spikes in email and phone activity.
These considerations form part of a crucial planning stage, which should start well in advance of the planned announcement date. Administrators will typically need between two and four weeks’ notice in order to allocate the necessary resources and to ensure that team members have had training on handling particular responses. During this notice period, having sight of draft versions of the communications is also important. This allows your administrator to verify all contact information and to begin the planning and training process with greater accuracy.
Strategy for enquiries
Planning for this activity is only effective with the right execution, so it’s important to understand the opportunities to best manage enquiries when they begin.
This could be something simple, such as pre-recorded helpline messages to deal with common questions or tailored menus to ensure members are routed to the administrators who have been trained to handle enquiries. This will also give valuable management information on the project itself.
Alternatively, there are a number of online tools that can be used to support member enquiries. FAQs can be a highly effective way of heading off questions before they arise, while utilising the member web portal to host engaging explainer videos, announcements and signposting to further information are all very cost-effective ways of improving the member experience.
Dedicated web pages can be introduced to deliver this information, or house documents, forms and other files relevant to the changes and any actions members may need to take. Where possible, there may also be options for members to update details, confirm decisions or request quotations in the same place.
Fees and charges
It’s important to clarify where the line is between core activity and additional requirements. Most administrators will already include an allowance for activity following the issue of member newsletters, summary funding statements, pension increases and benefit statements within their expected annual fee and work levels. So, while these events may cause peaks in member activity, it’s likely that they will have been included in the fixed fee agreement.
For those ‘special event’ projects that fall outside of this scope, where an additional bulk communication is required, it’s important to plan in advance alongside your administrator in order to make the project the most cost effective and resource efficient.
This pre-emptive approach can mitigate many of the transactional charges the scheme may have incurred without a strategic approach being taken, improve the outcome of the communication exercise and greatly enhance the member experience.
The consequences of communication
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