Let’s talk, not just write
2 Jun, 2024

Olefile Moea, Executive Director, Fairheads Benefit Services

 

The processes around beneficiary funds and umbrella trusts are not that easily understood, especially when guardians or caregivers are first entrusted with monies to use on behalf of minor children in their care.

 

Introductory letters, newsletters, Facebook and annual benefit statements are all well and good but how many people actively engage with the information – or indeed understand it?

 

In South Africa we need to assess what works best for communication at the grassroots level. I would argue that talking in the client’s own language is far more effective and powerful than just writing. Talking need not replace written communication but can be used to enhance it and explain to guardians and caregivers what the various documents mean or how they should be acted upon, for example the importance of providing an annual Proof of Existence.

 

Here are just a few of the challenges of written communication, based on our experience:

 

  • Letters sent to the guardian or caregiver were unlikely to be received because of the poor state of the SA Post Office.

 

  • Where letters were received, and despite using three different languages, many clients did not fully read nor understand the requirements.

 

  • In some cases, there was very limited communication between the retirement fund and the guardian or caregiver that the child had been awarded a share of the benefit, and that it had been transferred to a beneficiary fund.

 

It is also interesting to note that the majority of South Africans get their news, music and other information from broadcast media – radio or TV. Many also do not have access to the Internet. It makes sense then that companies dealing with people who are used to aural communication should prioritise talking over writing.

 

So if you are dealing with complex products and processes, why not make sure that you ‘talk’? Moreover as a sign of respect and reassurance as well as to optimise understanding, make sure that you talk to clients in their home language. This can offer significant benefits, including:

 

  • Improved understanding: Language is a powerful tool for conveying complex ideas and emotions. Speaking to clients in their home language ensures that they fully understand your message, reducing the risk of miscommunication.

 

  • Builds trust: Communicating in a client’s home language can help establish trust and rapport. It shows that you respect and understand their cultural background, which can be crucial in building strong, lasting relationships.

 

  • Enhanced customer experience: Providing service in a client’s preferred language contributes to a positive customer experience. Clients are more likely to feel comfortable, valued, and satisfied when they can communicate effectively with you.

 

  • Cultural sensitivity: Different languages are often tied to specific cultural nuances and customs. Speaking in a client’s home language demonstrates cultural sensitivity and awareness, which is essential for fostering a deeper connection and avoiding misunderstandings.

 

  • Increased engagement: People tend to be more engaged and participative in conversations conducted in their native language. This can lead to better collaboration and a more active involvement of clients in the discussion or decision-making process.

 

How to go about it?

 

Each business is different but in our company we have various means of talking to clients, ranging from contact centres, walk-in offices and/or roadshows. So let’s talk, not just write. It will make all the difference to guardians and caregivers, as well as smoothen processes for the service provider, allowing consultants to be freed up to add value to members’ lives in other ways.

 

ENDS

 

 

Author

@Olefile Moea, Fairheads Benefits Services
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