Communication with members is key to fund’s success

With more than 70 000 active members and around 3 000 participating employers, communication is a priority for the Transport Sector Retirement Fund (TSRF).

TSRF’s communication strategy is built on the foundation of empowering the members to be the financial decision-makers of the fund, according to communication consultant Estie van Coller from RetirementWise.

She says that every year TSRF undertakes scientific research to ensure that the communication strategy remains relevant, sustainable, and most importantly, has a real impact on members. The research surveys members’ views and experiences of the fund and includes questions about how they want to receive communication, in what format and when.

“The survey has shown that 84% of members believe the communication they receive from the TSRF is easy to understand, 83% say the information is useful and interesting, and 81% say that the information received enhances their understanding of the fund,” says Van Coller.

“This reflects well on the communication strategy of the fund being achieved, as our strategic objective is to enhance the understanding levels of the members via communication and to make sure the members not only understand their rights, but know where to go for further information about their benefits and investments.

“The study shows that in 2016, when we first asked the question, 36% of members said that the SMS was the preferred method of communication; in 2018 this figure has grown to 54%.

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“This finding, coupled with the fact that most members have cellphones (as this is the preferred channel of communication with their employers) has encouraged the fund to communicate with members via SMS so that newsletters, newsflashes and videos can be viewed on members’ cellphones.

“Communication via members’ cellphones was a logical solution, as the fund has a database of 63 000 cellphone numbers.”

Van Coller says the advantage of communication via SMS includes the fact that it is real-time and as most of fund members are on the road, they can read or watch the information sent to them from the fund where and when they want to.

As SMS communication is limited by the number of characters per message, the solution is to send SMSs to members with embedded links, where newsletters or videos can open on their cellphones via a link to the fund website. This action has also encouraged members to visit the fund website.

“In 2017, 18% of members said that if they are looking for information about the fund they visited the website. However, this has increased to 58% in 2018. Furthermore, in 2013 we had about 1 000 hits a month on the website, which grew to an average of 68 000 a month in 2017 and 155 000 in September 2018,” says Van Coller.

“Scribble videos are also produced to explain fund related matters and benefits. Scribble videos are very effective as they are entertaining and engage the members who see the pictures on the screen, read the words and listen to the voice, which results in greater retention and comprehension of information.

“The scribble video is uploaded on YouTube; the link is uploaded on the fund website and sent via SMS to all members’ cellphones, which gives them direct and instant access.”

Van Coller says the fund also has a call centre that members use to make enquiries or to pose questions. The call centre receives between 5 000 and 7 000 calls a month from members, of whom 76% said they receive excellent service from the call centre.

“TSRF also has walk-in information and service centres. The satisfaction rating of very good is 81%, which is up from 58% in 2017.

“The overall service rating has seen a substantial improvement in the last year, which is crucial as members are very interested in their fund, and study their benefit statements.”

Van Coller says the annual survey has also helped the fund to compile a general membership profile — about 70% of members are truck drivers, on average they are about 39 years old, they have matric, and there are more males than females (although each year sees more females entering the fund).

Another trend, according to the annual survey, is that truck drivers are no longer retiring at 65, because at that age employers have an experienced truck driver who is reliable and has been with the company for an extended period, so the fund has scrapped enforcing retirement at 65. Professional truck driving is regarded as critical skill, and there is a shortage of this skill.

The fund also compliments its cellphone and website communication with printed communication material, which is distributed via branded brochure stands at the walk-in centres, employers, and truck stops.

In addition, the fund has a Facebook page, so everything that is communicated via SMS, the website, or in print is also posted on Facebook.

Van Coller says much of the fund’s communication is geared towards educating the members around saving, the fund’s investments, and changes in the fund such as the introduction of life-stage portfolios and improved benefits.

One of TSRF’s biggest communication challenges is that members change their cellphone numbers and often do not have data.

“So even though we use a variety of electronic and print communication methods, and have walk-in claim and advice service centres, we also have teams that visit employers to conduct face-to-face communication with members. TSRF has also expanded its face-to-face communication by visiting the Harrismith Highway Junction Truck Stop, which receives 1 400 trucks a day, to speak with members outside of the employer setting,” says Van Coller.

Alf James
Guest Author
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