When you receive an unexpected letter from your super fund, there’s a good chance your heart rate heads north.
But Mercer is out to flip that anxiety by using the power of post to excite rather than alarm its members. It’s an initiative called ‘Random Acts to Surprise and Smile’ run out of the Mercer Super Trust – and it’s showing there’s more to customer service than a polite phone manner.
The Random Acts program sees Mercer’s helpline employees sending out handwritten cards and, if warranted, two movie tickets to customers with whom they’ve just spoken. “We’re very focused on building customer connections and it’s a way of taking that connection further,” says Sally Forde, Mercer’s Helpline Services Leader.
“It’s about living in the moment, and the Random Acts program was a way of reacting to what a customer says to Mercer, instead of usual call centre responses which are often far too transactional and full of perfunctory responses.”
The program has been running for about six months, with employees sending about 130 cards a month – and rising. Some are sending more than 20 a month, others are finding their feet with four or five cards.
“We’re going through the process of empowering them,” says Forde. “Some people are naturally enjoying it and jumping on it straight away, others a little more apprehensive. But it’s not about me dictating what people should do. It’s handing over responsibility to the person who has built the connection.”
The Random Acts initiative is well suited to Mercer’s super customers, as Forde says, who often call when there’s been a key event or change in their life, such as moving house, getting married (or divorced) or changing jobs. Sometimes, however, employees send cards for no other reason than to cheer a person up.
For example, a simple note from a helpline consultant elicited this response from the recipient: “Please thank Luke for the lovely little gift he gave me, no one has ever done anything like that before and it was a real surprise. Considering all my life I have never had someone put their hand out and give me a gift and write me a little note to say it was to brighten my day. It threw me for a six and brought tears to my eyes and it came as a shock. What Luke did was a very, very nice gesture.”
Authentic and effective
Forde believes that the key to Random Acts’ success is keeping the program fluid and personal. It is also a highly effective business strategy. “Sitting there writing a card takes only a couple of minutes, then we quality control it,” says Forde. “And our people love it. They feel empowered because they can make a bit of a difference and if there’s a not-so-pleasant interaction, they can send out an apology card. But on the flipside, they can acknowledge happy things.”
The program is also a potential model for Mercer’s standalone clients, who are bringing a focus back to members in their customer service programs. “It’s a fairly cost-effective way of connecting with members and closing the loop in terms of customer follow up,” Forde says. “And the word-of-mouth effect is also creating advocates in the recipient’s community.”