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Participant Engagement: Determining Your Audience’s Preferences

One of the challenges associated with successfully engaging retirement plan participants is figuring out your audience’s preferences. Let’s take myself as an example, ignoring the fact that I work in the retirement plan industry for a moment.

As a 50-something Gen Xer, my plan’s recordkeeper/TPA might make assumptions about how I engage with my retirement plan – and, of course, those assumption could be correct or incorrect. However, understanding a participant’s behavior is key to successful engagement. Here are some of my behaviors that are relevant to the engagement process:

  • I HATE speaking over the phone for any service I receive. Using the internet or an app to resolve an issue is my preference. I will use the chat feature if I have to, but only if I have thoroughly researched the issue myself and can’t find an answer. But picking up the phone and callng a customer service rep? I prefer an insurance seminar.
  • Similarly, my chances of meeting with someone in person to discuss my finances, or any other service, is less than zero. To me, there is no issue that can be addressed more efficiently in person than over the internet. Video chat? Maybe. But an in-person meeting? Absolutely not.
  • If you are mailing me something, assume it will be shredded and recycled. 99% of my non-package mail is junk; if there was a way that I could suppress nearly all my mail from ever reaching me, I would do it in a heartbeat.
  • I can count on one hand the number of checks I have written this year. If I had my way, I would never write another check again. For me, electronic payments are not only the best thing since sliced bread, they are even better than the whole sandwich! I automate almost everything, including my savings; if it is not easy for me to automate, I simply don’t do it.
  • Paper forms? That’s not happening. I can’t remember the last time I filled out a paper form for our retirement plan (the 1990s, perhaps?) and that is just the way I like it.
  • Oddly, I am a bit behind the curve when it comes to texts. To me, it is just not as convenient as apps or the good old fashioned laptop. I am, however, making progress, as I probably receive more texts now than I ever have. But still, other than scheduling a couple of appointments, I have not used text for transactional activities and it remains one of the least used features on my smartphone.

As soon I mentioned “50-something Gen X,” I bet that assumptions were made about some of my behaviors. Were they correct? If not, you can see what a challenge it might be for a recordkeeper/TPA to engage participants like me, particularly since they may be making assumptions about a large demographic within the plan.

Without valid assumptions as to how to engage people, another option is to throw things against the wall and see what sticks, but that can be an expensive proposition. Thus, most plan recordkeepers/TPAs have to be extremely strategic in order to move the needle on participant engagement — which is why successful engagement often requires the joint effort of the plan sponsor, recordkeeper, and a trusted advisor.

Do you have any participant engagement success stories? Feel free to let us know on LinkedIn, Twitter or at

Note: This feature is to provide general information only, does not constitute legal advice, and cannot be used or substituted for legal or tax advice. Opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Cammack Retirement Group.

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