Roadmap PGGM for innovation and improvement customer service with speech technology.

The Dutch pension administration organisations will be extra busy in the coming years. The ongoing overhaul of the Dutch pension system is causing major changes to processes, systems, information and communication for them. In the meantime, ongoing improvement and innovation are continuing, because the pension funds settle their accounts with the administrators on the basis of ‘costs per participant’. PGGM, one of the biggest pension administration organisations in the Netherlands, has a clear roadmap for customer contact and takes account of various customer journeys in its innovations. How does that work?

Pension administrator PGGM has a clear vision on customer experience. Frank Rademakers (Manager Customer Contact & Support, PGGM) believes in what he calls ‘mass customisation’: “Where possible, strongly digitise and standardise processes. After all, we work with the contributions paid in by the pension participants, so the lower the cost of our work, the better. But that must not detract from customer satisfaction and quality. We also want to maintain room for personal contact. So our phone number is easy to find on our website.”

Frank RademakersFrank Rademakers has responsibility at PGGM for all first-line client contacts with the 2.9 million participants and 25,000 employers of ‘Pensioenfonds Zorg & Welzijn’ (PFZW, the Dutch pension organisation for (para)medical professionals). Rademakers also manages the Operations Support department, which provides support for various funds and is responsible for aspects including WFM, management of content and customer feedback and reporting. As this support team also coordinates the document flows, Rademakers has a good overview of processes that could result in extra contacts – such as the three million letters sent every year.

Organisation based on customer journeys

In line with its vision on customer experience, PGGM has a clear customer contact strategy. In early 2020, the organisation underwent a metamorphosis: from a traditional front office/back office layout to a structure based on customer journeys. As Rademakers explains: “Those are the moments in people’s lives when pension issues really become relevant; retirement, dismissal, divorce, death, disability and so on. Multidisciplinary teams are integrally responsible for such a customer journey, from the application to the calculation and award of the pension. The more than 50 first-line staff have received broad and deep training, and can handle 98 per cent of the questions from participants and employers straight off. Only two percent go on to a specialist in a customer journey team.”

At PGGM, the impact of a customer journey partly determines the way contact channels are handled. Retiring is different from moving; in the case of simple events, pension participants are more likely to be able to arrange many things for themselves. PGGM is responding to this with various self-service options on the website and an extensive ‘My’ environment, including planner functionality and a personal mail archive.

Roadmap for innovation and improvement

A second element of the PGGM strategy is that Rademakers’ team, together with IT and the internal innovation department, looks periodically – even quarterly – at the business value of customer contact solutions and technology. “For each customer journey, our clients have set concrete KPIs. If, according to our participants, the Customer Effort Score for a particular customer journey is not in line with our ambitions, we take the initiative to improve it. So what is the scope of an improvement or change? How many participants will benefit from it? What does it contribute to customer satisfaction and the perceived ease of arranging something?”

PGGM has a roadmap for improvement and innovation in customer contact for the coming years. “This roadmap is a comprehensive overview with different routes and axes, such as future-proofing and strategic value for the coming years. For example, we started using a chatbot from CX Company three years ago. Now, more than 70 per cent of all customer contacts of our largest customer Pensioenfonds Zorg & Welzijn (PZFW) are conducted via this smart assistant. The replacement of our email application is planned for the end of this year; our ambition is to implement a single suite for all personal digital communication.”

Sometimes, changes in customer contact are less strategically embedded, but are primarily forced by current circumstances. Rademakers: “Each year, more than a thousand people visit the office in Zeist for a personal meeting to discuss their pensions. Video appointments are still quite new in the pension world, but we started with them – in experimental form – at the end of last year, partly because of corona.”

Use of voice applications

If you peel back PGGM’s customer contact strategy further, you arrive at the use of voice, for which PGGM works with Telecats. Automated identification of customers based on spoken customer data, speech routing, voicebots and the automated recording of voice summaries are solutions that each have their specific value. In all cases, they come down to smart use of already available information and data. Automated identification based on speech primarily means that the customer receives a warm welcome, because the employee knows from the start of the call who he or she is talking to. At PGGM, this customer recognition also often means that the employee already has an idea of the possible content of the call, explains Rademakers. “Opening the customer card before the call starts really adds value. And the business case for automated customer identification is not that complicated. It saves about 30 seconds per call, times around 300,000 calls per year.”

PGGM’s Customer Contact Organisation (CCO) is usually very busy, but if there is some spare capacity, such as in an off-peak period, it can of course be used for various purposes. At the end of last year, Rademakers’ team called hundreds of lonely elderly people at its own initiative, in order to connect with them at a time when many of them were feeling quite lonely. That unexpected moment of contact was greatly appreciated. “Customer contact is underestimated by many, I think – in my opinion it is a high-level sport. In my view, the CCO is a true value centre. Within PGGM we always refer to our customer contact staff, never agents.”

Priority for the spoken summary

PGGM could also take the next step – routing the call to the most appropriate employee based on a question spoken in advance, i.e. speech routing. This can make the service even more personal. However, direct routing to the second line is difficult for PGGM because the subjects are quite detailed, and the first line already covers the majority of them. That is why Rademakers is giving priority to implementing the ‘spoken summary’, a new application of voice.


“It is essential for a good customer contact history to enter a short summary of the conversation in the CRM system: this contributes to a good follow-up. What prompted the participant to make contact, what was the essence of the conversation and what follow-up steps have been agreed on? If you don’t have to type this in as an employee, but can have it saved automatically, that saves a lot of time that we would rather spend on the participants themselves.”

“We are now making all the preparations so that we can implement this application in the third quarter. We are quite proud to have developed this, together with partner Telecats. A spoken summary is not strictly standardised, so part of its success depends on good guidelines and proper training. Summarising calls is already largely ingrained in the working methods of our employees. Their work is knowledge intensive. We have a low turnover and a customer satisfaction score of well over 8/10.”

Sander SpiegelenbergSpeech technology is no longer about understanding what someone says, but about understanding what someone means, explains Sander Spiegelenberg, general manager of Telecats. “In the latter area, much has been achieved in recent years, so that it is now more accurate to speak of ‘voice’. Typical voice applications include identifying the customer, recognising the customer’s intent and doing something with the information from the call – for example, saving it as text, with or without analysis.” Although there is often great added value in recognising intent (so you can ensure that the customer speaks to the right employee), “PGGM’s experience shows that there is no such thing as the most logical ‘implementation order’,” says Spiegelenberg. “What does help: a clear vision, translated into a roadmap, in which you have properly substantiated the added value of innovations.”

Getting rid of IVR 

PGGM’s roadmap includes other innovation plans. Rademakers: “Our chatbot works with very high-quality content. Questions fired at the chatbot lead to a relevant answer in 94 per cent of cases. My dream is that the chatbot can also pick up spoken questions and then answer them in a pleasant, human voice. At the moment we are still using a button-driven IVR, but I would like to get rid of it. For this voicebot, we currently have a working prototype with about 50 questions; the main challenge at the moment is to understand the questions asked in various ways, and give the right answer. After all, the customer has to be helped really well – and preferably in one go. When the voicebot has been developed far enough, we will initially use it on a small scale for specific customer journeys. It would be great if we could make a start on this by the end of the year.”

About PGGM – PGGM is a Dutch pension administration organisation. The largest customer for which the pension scheme is executed is the pension fund for care and welfare, PFZW. PGGM also works for other pension funds and has 266 billion euros of invested assets under management (at the end of 2020).

Text: Erik Bouwer,



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