Everyone has an opinion about contact teams, and more often than not, it’s usually a negative stereotype. Let’s face it, we’ve all probably got stories of long hold times, automated responses or ineffective and ill-informed staff passing you from pillar to post.
These experiences have been unfortunate by-products of an early clamour to hurriedly funnel customers into offshore call centres and unwittingly creating a poor service and reputational damage in the meantime.
But what if these contact centres can be done well? What if customers can get a truly effective and time-saving interaction from properly trained professionals? With proper care, there are many benefits for pension schemes if they openly consider the benefits using a contact team can bring.
Perception vs reality
Not all contact teams are the same and it would be wrong to tarnish them all with the same brush created by other industries offering poor standards of service. There is a real opportunity to utilise staff with the best customer service skills to handle members at the first point of contact, using new specialist technologies to support them in resolving a range of different requests quickly and efficiently.
Early incarnations of contact teams were based on deskilling the service. The overuse of call scripts and fixed decision trees left callers feeling they were interacting with robots unable and unwilling to handle anything that deviated from a fixed path.
Contact teams can be skills based, with staff possessing more pensions knowledge or scheme-specific understanding. In fact, skills routing and live experience management can be much more effectively tracked and managed through a contract team than pure team-based hunt groups.
Either way, both models are typically supported by more technically detailed team members who can provide second line support and guidance.
Benefits of a faster service
Fundamentally, the aim of all contact teams should be resolve member enquiries quickly and accurately on the first contact. Most member enquiries are usually quite basic and simple to resolve. For anything from address and other personal detail changes, to requests for up-to-date figures and paperwork, we find that over 80% of member interactions can be resolved easily through a contact team.
It stands to reason that where queries are responded to faster, member experience is improved – which is a significant target for all schemes. In our experience, feedback from members is also typically more positive after the introduction of a contact team. It also has the benefit of allowing technically trained administrators to focus their time on more in-depth scheme activity.
As with many new solutions in financial services, technology plays a big part in success. In the pensions sector, contact team technology has now become as important as core administration systems - so Trustees really should be speaking to their administrator about what is possible.
At a simple level, the benefits are clear. Security, speed, reliability, service metrics and reporting are all typically improved with the introduction of a contact team, helping achieve many of the targets set for administrators by schemes, while also offering a more effective service to members.
But that’s not all. Often using a technology-led member contact team brings with it a greater level of quality assurance, monitoring and experience management. The ability to listen in live or listen back to calls can aid quality and training, while automatically collecting member feedback and sentiment after the point of contact are valuable tools and data for administrators and trustees alike.
When it comes to offering a modern-day administration service, it’s important to remove preconceptions and focus on what will offer the most effective solution for members. Equipping your service with a member contact team does not take away from the technical abilities or support that will be offered to members, it just means routing the enquiries in a different way and focussing on the greatest majority of member needs first.
Solving quick requests with quick responses, introducing complementary new technology and gathering meaningful feedback from member interactions are all hallmarks of a service working well. It’s time to change the mindset and remove the snobbery around contact teams. Instead, let's start providing an effective and valuable service that members have shown they want.
Kate Robertson is Member Contact Manager at Trafalgar House