Better late than never: Why super funds should focus on customers

Damian Sharpley
By Damian Sharpley | 6 October 2020
Damian Sharpley

Damian Sharpley, strategy partner, CX Lavender

Gone are the days when superannuation providers would effortlessly grow at the speed of the market and depend on an annual sword fight with each other for the large corporate and employer super deals.

Disengagement reigns supreme currently, that is until a handful of ambitious providers decide to shake things up and do things differently, or if market dynamics change. For instance, with the new MyGov legislation, it’s now easier than ever for Australians to choose a fund – all this consequently awakening members from their slumber with new power in their hands.

In brief, super providers can no longer rely on scale for success. What they need is a customer-centric strategy approach that creates greater value for members and provides tangible evidence that can be communicated effectively. There are four ways to go about this.

1. Differentiate your proposition
You can’t all be the biggest or best performing, so stand for something different.

When I cast my eyes over the 200+ super providers in market and what they communicate, it’s nearly indistinguishable what each represents, what their unfair advantage is, or what they promise to current and prospective members. Interestingly, the strongest brand in the market arguably is Industry Super – a sub-category brand of non-for-profit superannuation funds.

So, how does an inspired, ambitious provider begin to strengthen their position?

One option is to find a market that needs something better, and shape the business and your brand around that market or those segments. For example, sadly, on average women’s super balances are 28% lower than men’s and this disparity begins from the age 25. What if your market was the prosperity and wellbeing of Australian women?

It could be as easy as offering a few investment options specifically for women, or going harder at it and orientating your whole customer strategy and experience behind this differentiated business strategy. The idea is to find a clear space and shape the business around it to win.

A second option could be identifying your unfair advantage and making it pay. It could be a new piece of technology or an exclusive distribution alliance. A good example here is Bank of Australia – its products aren’t superior to anyone else’s, but it has clearly identified its business as the cleanest, most sustainable banking proposition for Australians to consider.

2. Grow your brand
There are no shortcuts to growing your brand. The sooner you realise you have to pay your way with media to get the necessary all-important reach, the better. Ideally, you want to reach as many significant numbers of new customers as possible and do so once – because most of the heavy lifting is done in the first exposure of communication.

Plus, there’s plenty of empirical evidence showing that to grow, your share of voice (spend) has to be greater than your share of market (size).

Of course, it’s not just about advertising spend. To motivate people to consider your brand, you must first find a genuine need you can solve for them and propose it in an emotionally magnetic way. A good recent example from the world of insurance is Budget Direct, which chose to zero in on people’s resentment for paying high premiums for a largely intangible and homogenous service. Meeting an un-served need with a low-cost proposition became a very motivating factor to prospective customers to make the switch and – along with a famous Captain Risky – led to market share growth for Budget Direct.

3. Improve your CX
Having recently completed the process of changing super providers, I gained unique insight into the unwieldy superannuation customer experience. There were too many unpleasant moments in that process to go through in detail here, but it reinforced for me something the super industry badly needs – to make it easy for customers to join providers and complete their migration.

From the dreaded paperwork to the anticipated complexity, I’d bet a large number of Australians are put off the task from the get-go. Making it easy to open a new account is one thing, but equally important is to understand and remove any physical or mental impediments that are likely to stall the conversion.

Imagine for a second that with every new account opened you were assigned a Concierge to ask questions, who provided simple tasks to you each week to keep things moving, dispelled myths and anticipated questions, and could alert your adviser on your behalf if you were too afraid to do so yourself. This could be a bot or a human – ether way, the customer experience would be greatly enhanced and a completed migration has occurred.

Of course, when we’re talking about CX in superannuation, it’s hard to ignore the fact that nearly everyone thinks very little about super until they’re close to retirement age. And yet, there’s plenty super providers could be doing to tackle this challenge. For starters, what if some small proportion of our super demanded our active involvement each month? And what if we were pinged regularly with the latest economic updates and opinions from a select few ‘influencers’ we choose to follow, and we were asked to actively place a percentage of monthly contributions into a more high-involvement, high-interest investment product?

Now I’m just spit-balling here, but with a skilled approach to researching members, we can really begin to get beneath the inertia, sharpen our understanding of it and design solutions that create interest and ultimately behavioural change, leading to significant bottom-line performance. Surely it’s worth it.

4. Empower the business with customer knowledge
This one is simple – and yet so few businesses get it right: put data and insights in the hands of employees near the customer.

If customer engagement, customer centricity or customer experience feature anywhere in your organisation’s mantra, then data needs to be central to that philosophy as part of an Experience Management (XM) system. That system should be wired in to the key links in the customer experience chain as sensors for the experience, relaying data back and forth to the dashboard that customer-facing and customer-management personnel can view. This would allow them to watch for the flares that eventually come and to then manage the issues swiftly.


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