Desperately seeking lisa

This month Aviva launches its new group pension service and I had the opportunity to examine some new tools which embrace such a fresh approach.

The company employed a prototype, test-and-learn approach in designing this service. This involved spending considerable time researching which communication methods consumers find most attractive. They say they learnt valuable lessons about the way consumers wish to engage with financial services sites, many of which challenge conventional wisdom.

As a result they are deploying groundbreaking new technology to help consumers understand the services offered. Whilst in the past many sites have used avatars and similar animated characters to provide help, the Aviva service is supported by video guides using a real person, known as Lisa, who is available as a help service through each part of the proposition. When using the service the videos can be viewed in a window adjacent to the main information.

In addition, a series of explanatory videos can be viewed at www.controlyourpension.com. Personally I have never come across the use of real person help in this way. It is certainly highly engaging. There is definitely something about a human articulating ideas which makes them easier to understand.

A stochastic modelling tool has been included within this site but this is referred to as a ‘Beam of Light’ with the brightness of the light highlighting the probability of reaching a specific outcome. This is an excellent example of taking complex industry concepts and using visuals creatively to turn them into something consumers can easily grasp.

Significant changes have been made to the company’s processes for scheme establishment and contribution collection, these are welcome as the previous proposition was light in this area. Aviva’s group scheme implementation team, which had previously only dealt with direct business, now supports cases via advisers and EBCs. Initial scheme contributions will normally be processed by employers with the assistance of the implementation team and demonstration tools are provided to support ongoing use. These are constructed on a ‘Show and Play’ basis rather than ‘Show and Tell’. This means users are far more engaged in the process and their first experience is not using live data, rather they have the opportunity to practise first.

When making payments the system identifies when the next contributions are due. The user recalls the previous payment then runs an extract from their payroll system, which is mapped to the Aviva payment system. This identifies contributions for each member and carries out an audit process to recognise any variations from previous payments. During this process joiners and leavers are identified. The system allows users to supply any missing data in respect of new members and the scheme administrator can set up the agreed investment choice for the member. This includes a range of different lifestyle options and the ability for the member to choose their own funds. Finally, the system again compares the contribution with the previous month and produces a summary of changes. Overall this area of Aviva’s service has vastly improved.

Another site, www.makesenseofit.com provides a wealth of tips and tools to help customers take key decisions about retirement and other financial planning matters. The content in this area has been identified from an analysis of the most frequent questions posed to Aviva’s call centres. Users can compare graphically the current value of their plan, compared with the total contributions, as well as the previous value of the plan at any date back to inception.

For a company not historically seen as a technology leader, on this evidence there would appear to be a transformation taking place from the rather staid and conservative Norwich Union to an exciting forward thinking, 21st-century Aviva.

If they can maintain this standard the company will have a lot to offer in the future.