Increasing Pension Member Self-Service Adoption


Self-service engagement via mobile devices is a basic expectation for consumers across the U.S., but despite digital modernization efforts over the past 5 years, pension funds continue to struggle with member self-service adoption. It is estimated that only 5-10 percent of members, on average, access self-service portals at least once a year. There remains an untapped opportunity to increase engagement with members, improve efficiencies, and allow call center personnel to spend more time on higher-value activities.

Optimization Prioritization

The more mobile accessible self-service offerings are, the more likely they are to be used by members. Since 90 percent of self-service users access less than 10 percent of the content or services in pension member self-service offerings , it is imperative to optimize the mobile experience for high-demand activities, such as:

  • Accessing summary benefits information and downloading statements and other documents.
  • Simple account updates such as address and beneficiary changes, income verification, W-4 withholding, class changes, and retirement benefit estimates.
  • Answering payment status questions such as “When will I receive my benefits?” and “Did you receive my direct deposit payment?”

Ideally, members should be able to complete the above and other important activities in two clicks or less.

Best Practices for Success

Implement First-Class Security Measures

The security of members’ personal information is just as important as the ability to access and manage account information. Secure, but intuitive log-in and password reset processes and multi-factor authentication for access and transactions involving sensitive member information are a must. Educating members about information security, identity theft, and why online transactions are more secure than physical mail should be emphasized to phase out less secure, physical mail communications.

Transition to E-Forms

Many of the most modern, well-designed pension self-service offerings still include long lists of PDF documents that must be printed out and signed, then either scanned and emailed or physically mailed to the pension fund. E-forms turns this 4-step process, which is prone to errors and involves multiple devices, into a 1-step, intuitive, data-validated process on a single device. For a streamlined experience, collaborate with legal to determine which documents are critical to maintain, what signatures are still required, and work to transition to e-forms and digital signatures.

Leverage Analytics

To guide self-service improvements, use real-time usage analytics to understand the most popular types of activities and find the places where users frequently stop/drop. It is also important to analyze the usage patterns on mobile-responsive websites to understand the age, device and browser types used, and other attributes of members accessing self-service offerings. The best pension websites are often designed based on how their offerings support important life events for their members, like getting married, changing employers, preparing for retirement, and death. The tone of the content should be empathetic and not legalistic or technical.

Provide Multiple Language Options

Language is another area where benefit providers can set their digital experiences apart. Since 22% of Americans speak a language other than English at home, an emerging best practice is to start with educational content in Spanish or other languages that may be relevant to your members and, over the long term, evolve self-service applications to be language-specific based on user preference.

Enable Accessibility

From a technology perspective, self-service mobile apps and websites should be WCAG 2.1 AA compliant to meet the needs of members with cognitive, low vision, or other kinds of disabilities. They should have reusable website elements such as information panels for status inquiries, complex data tables for annuity payout comparisons, e-forms for beneficiary management, and configurable tools for different kinds of benefit calculations. Make sure to select a benefit administration software provider that offers robust application programming interfaces (API’s) to access the necessary data and administration services easily with the flexibility to use their digital engagement services or third-party engagement services chosen by the pension fund.

Offer Support

While all of these methods can be utilized to optimize the digital experiences of end users, they cannot wholly eliminate issues with adoption and usage. When implementing these experiences, pension funds should equip members with resources to answer their own questions. Present help articles, tool tips, and well-designed prompts throughout the self-service experience. When members still need to get in touch with customer service representatives, make it intuitive with guided steps. As part of that guided process, arm your CSRs with information prior to their engagement by asking for detailed information from the members to ensure an expedited and effective experience.

Final Thoughts

As pension members become more proficient in digital self-service, pension funds must adapt to meet their technology demands. Since members care the most about a relatively small amount of information and transaction types, focus on these areas first. Make sure that information security is foundational to self-service offerings and use analytics to continuously improve the user experience. Improving self-service efforts will pay off in increased customer engagement and reduced operational costs now and in the long run.

To learn more about Vitech’s pension solutions, visit

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About the Author

Viraj Singh

Viraj Singh is Director of Sales Engineering, Retirement & Health at Vitech. Viraj has worked at Vitech since graduating from Lehigh University in 2014. During his tenure, Viraj has worked in almost all aspects of the company, from services implementation, product design, quality management, solution consulting, and sales engineering. Viraj uses his diverse background to lead Vitech’s pension sales engineering efforts.