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Bulking Up for Retirement

Transamerica boosts service with Web site and call center improvements.

Providing better service to clients can mean providing instant service. In the case of Transamerica Retirement Services (Los Angeles), the quest for this ideal led to an upgraded interactive Web site and a new participant call center.

The initiatives are a result of feedback from both customers and sponsors, according to Susan Lotwin, VP of operations, Transamerica. With the improvements, "We are able to take care of a lot of functionality for our clients right away," she asserts. "With things like resetting PINs, for example, either [clients] can do it themselves, or they can call and get help immediately. We are able to service them much more efficiently and much more quickly with these changes," she continues.

"The Web site is built on a [Microsoft] .NET platform with a business facade layer that enables access to multiple back-end databases," Lotwin explains. This allows users to exchange data in real time using IBM's MQSeries messaging queues. The middleware layer was built internally by Transamerica not only to cut costs, but also because the MQSeries software was already in place. By building in-house, "Cost was certainly much less of a blow," Lotwin says.

The Sooner, the Better

In keeping with the ideal of providing instant service, deployment of the enhancements was accomplished relatively quickly. "It was quite fast. The entire project from start to completion was 10 months, but that included several months of writing business specifications," Lotwin notes. "The actual development time was three to four months."

With the enhancements in place, data can be grabbed in real time and brought to the Web site and call center, according to Lotwin. A new phone menu gives users the ability to receive automated account information, request forms automatically or opt out of the menu at any time to speak to a live representative. The reorganization is meant to provide an easy-to-navigate structure and shorten the duration of calls. "Our new goal for speed of answer is about 30 seconds," Lotwin says.

For the Web site, ease of use lies in the display of information. "We were very focused on usability, both in the menu and navigation structure as well as in minimizing the number of mouse clicks needed [to navigate the site] by providing links in the appropriate places," Lotwin relates. "We took the approach of finding out what the user needs ... and how we can make it readily available for them."

Wizard-style forms take sponsors through a series of questions that can generate a list detailing census items to be completed and the progress of each item. "The site now tells users exactly what they have to fill out," Lotwin says. "The incentive behind this was an improved level of service for all of our different audiences, and, based on the feedback we've been getting, it looks like we've definitely been successful in that regard."

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