COVID-19 restrictions accelerated digital engagement for millions of Australians. From study and work-from-home to food delivery, shopping, entertainment, healthcare and exercise classes. Customers compared how successful and easy it was to get what they wanted, and how interactions with providers made them feel.

As a result, meeting customer expectations just got tougher. The measure of your customer’s experience is now informed by their last best experience with the likes of Netflix, Amazon or Uber Eats – not only your financial service peers.

Our 2021 Superannuation CX Benchmarking report, analysing feedback from 8355 individual fund members and 1155 employers from 26 superannuation funds, found the uptake of digital channels far outweighed the traditional contact channels used to engage with funds, irrespective of member age. Email or online contact form (42 per cent), website and member portal (34 per cent) were the most popular digital channels, but the use of live chat and apps were also featured.

In a sector challenged by disengagement and a ‘set and forget’ mentality, digital engagement is no longer optional – especially among younger members. The ease of effort for members to engage is critical, and digital channels must be integral to the customer experience (CX) offering.

Trust is the #1 driver of overall satisfaction

In recent years, the importance of trust as an influence on customer satisfaction has been on the rise. Our 2021 findings confirm that trust is also the key factor, outside of performance and returns, that will encourage members to stay with the fund long term. And the top driver of trust is feeling valued at an emotional level.

Other key drivers of trust relate to the quality of service in customer interactions, including providing clear information, handling enquiries quickly, and providing required information.

With emotional attributes now alongside financial attributes as having the largest influence on overall satisfaction, empathy and the ability to meet the needs of the customer must become a critical focus for funds.

Trust is at its highest level since 2017

Here’s the good news! Our study found that trust levels have finally returned to pre-Royal Commission levels seen in 2017, with an overall average trust score of 8.3 out of 10. Importantly, the results showed exceptionally stronger trust ratings among members with recent fund contact.

Members with recent fund contact rate higher across all key CX metrics and are less likely to indicate intention to switch funds, compared to less engaged members without recent fund contact.

In what may be a small silver lining, the pandemic has provided unexpected opportunities for funds to support members through challenging times. The positive impressions formed through these important customer experiences have helped to rebuild trust for many funds.

The challenge now is to protect and build trust through further engagement and high-quality customer experience.

Be trustworthy every time

While trust is built over time from consistent positive experiences at the transactional level, the more we can engage through high quality interactions, the more trust deepens. By aligning success, ease and sentiment with each customer interaction, funds will certainly be able to lift their trust levels. It is therefore important to:

  1. Create opportunities for consistent engagement
    Customise a range of interactions for specific customer types and needs to add value and deepen your relationships.
  2. Offer an omni-channel experience
    Digital engagement is no longer optional, and the experience needs to be seamless across channels and touchpoints. It is crucial that your customers have choice around how they engage with you, and you make it easy for them, irrespective of the channel.
  3. Focus on quality
    Think about quality in terms of customer’s experience, rather than only in relation to product knowledge, governance and compliance. Design specific and measurable standards for each channel and contact type that focus on the customer.
  4. Perform independent Quality Assurance assessments
    It is critical that objective QA assessments show exactly how you are performing, enabling you to adjust your interactions accordingly. The assessments must review both digital and person-to-person interactions.
  5. Empower your frontline teams
    An interaction quality framework provides clarity on what is within each agent’s scope to provide exceptional customer experiences. While technology such as Artificial Intelligence and chat bots have enhanced customer service, the human element of communication is paramount in building trust. Personalised customer interactions including effective questioning and triaging, can only strengthen a member’s relationship with your fund. Additionally, you strengthen your team, as staff enjoy the coaching which allows them to provide a better service.