As a finalist for Superannuation Executive of the Year at last year’s Money Management/Super Review Women in Financial Services Awards, it’s hardly surprising that Sharnie Barabas is excellent at her job.
When you consider that her role is head of client services at Australian Catholic Superannuation (ACS), meaning it’s on her to ensure that every member has the best experience possible with the fund, that becomes even more impressive. So, what are Barabas’ secrets to success in the difficult field of member services?
The adage that ‘knowledge is power’ holds as true in the provision of client services as it does in wider life, and with the wealth of data now available to superannuation funds, there’s no excuse for not understanding your member base.
According to Barabas, “having insights into your membership is extremely valuable” when working out how to share information with them and improve their experience with the fund.
When ACS implemented its current suite of online tools, for example, members were involved every step of the way. Barabas says this helped “ensure we found the happy medium between what we could do from a regulatory point of view compared to what members were looking for”.
Understanding ACS’ membership demographic also helps Barabas deliver the sorts of communications that members want, especially as such a broad range of people are in the fund. From social media to the online member portal to telephone services outside of work hours to live chats to workplace visits, strong customer service providers work out what type of communication suits a particular member in order to optimise their interactions.
Research conducted by ACS found that, while members want tools that let them serve and educate themselves, they also want human interaction and assistance with calls to action.
When it comes to technology and human client services providers then, Barabas believes that “it’s important to tread the right line between the two”.
“It is vital to understand your members and work out which approach is right for them. It’s also about being proactive,” she says. “If a member doesn’t want to use technology, or voices an opinion on a lengthy call situation, we need to be able to suggest alternatives that suit their needs.”
Whether communications are between people or with both digital and physical options, ACS has found that offering a group of connected experiences is essential for good member experience.
“If a member has spoken to a regional manager in a school, they should be able to call the member services team an hour later and continue that conversation seamlessly,” Barabas says. “This involves our staff focusing on providing information into our Salesforce customer relationship management system, and thus enabling our call centre to quickly retrieve member information and continue the process.”
Having a complete picture of a members’ situation also enables cohesive customer service. One way in which ACS aims to meet members’ expectations in communications, for example, is by providing the client services team with one view of the member. By utilising technology, they should be able to see different aspects of the member at once, from whether they see a planner to if they have a beneficiary.
Member engagement is the puzzle every super fund wants to solve, and knowing members’ individual profile again helps here. The Super Exec of the Year finalist believes that a crucial component to sharing fund information with members is delivering a personal experience meeting their needs and wants.
Digital capabilities enable this – ACS’ member portal, for example, can be personalised to service the functionality and content a member wants based on their past history within the fund’s digital ecosystem.
Tying members’ information to products that help them understand their super savings also drives engagement. Barabas points to a new retirement projection tool that ACS created as an example, that links members’ account details in real-time to projections of their balance against the Association of Super Funds Australia lifestyle guide.
“This has resulted in greater engagement levels and significant increases in advice referrals,” she says.