Communication plays an essential role in social security institutions so that members and beneficiaries have access to the information necessary to exercise their rights and fulfil their obligations through the services provided, as well as developing a social security culture. This article presents experiences of multi-channel communication strategies implemented by social security institutions in the Americas, which strengthened existing communication channels and developed new digital channels.
The COVID-19 crisis accelerated innovation in public service delivery strategies by social security institutions. This resulted in the implementation of multi-channel communication strategies. Restrictions on contact with the public led to the adoption of digital channels of communication to ensure continuity of services. And after the pandemic, digital channels were consolidated as the primary mode of service delivery and interaction between institutions and their members. (ISSA, 2021a). With this user-centred approach, institutions used digital communication channels to ensure that services and information reached the greatest number of people. In parallel, the institutions strengthened their traditional channels, such as telephone and face-to-face meetings (ISSA, 2022a).
The level of acceptance and adoption of the different channels by users is related to their profile, information needs, contact preferences and access to, and use of, technology, among other aspects. (Technical Commission on Information and Communication Technology, 2022; ISSA 2023). Social security institutions use web portals, mobile applications, microsites, email, instant messaging, chatbots and social networks in a differentiated way for specific purposes. In parallel, the institutions have improved their attention in traditional face-to-face meetings and their call centres, particularly strengthening the telephone services to meet the growing demand (ISSA, 2021b and 2023).
Figure 1. Multi-channel approaches
Prepared by ISSA, 2023.
The significant acceptance of digital channels and the transition from face-to-face services to telephone and digital channels, has allowed more people to be served in less time and, in some channels, providing services 24/7. (ISSA, 2023).
Recognizing the benefits and advantages of the multi-channel communication strategy, institutions continue to focus on ensuring that the information provided to the public is clear, timely, relevant, consistent across all channels, responds to their needs and expectations, and facilitates their access to social security.
Communication plays an essential role in the functioning of social security institutions. The effectiveness of their services promotes inclusion and seeks to ensure that people understand their rights and responsibilities, benefits and services, and the mechanisms for accessing them efficiently (ISSA, 2022b).
Communication also enables the development of a social security culture following a rights-based approach (ISSA, 2023) so that people understand the fundamental social security principles, the contingencies they may face in life, and how social security offers to deal with them. A social security culture promotes exercising people's rights and responsibilities and acquiring capacities to make informed decisions that facilitate their participation in social protection schemes (ISSA, 2021c).
The ISSA Guidelines on communication by social security administrations (ISSA, 2022b) and on service quality (ISSA, 2019a) state that communication promotes transparency and strengthens trust in social security institutions. These guidelines state that information should be timely, accessible and tailored to the needs of external users (members and the general public) and internal users (employees). They also state that providing quality services and good communication reduces the need to deal with individual requests, helps contain costs, and reduces workloads by increasing general knowledge and empowering users in managing services.
In this sense, user-centred communication and incorporating digital channels that respond to users' information needs and contact preferences are essential to close information and service access gaps, as they reach more users more efficiently (ISSA, 2023).
Multi-channel communication is a strategy that incorporates more than one digital medium or platform (web portals and microsites, instant messaging, email, social networks, chatbots, etc.) and traditional channels (telephone and face-to-face) to provide information, interact with users and reach a wider audience. This is done under the concept of comprehensiveness and complementarity. The multi-channel approach allows differentiated and personalized information to be provided in accordance with users' needs, expectations, profiles and contact preferences, positively affecting the user experience and their level of satisfaction.
Figure 2. Multi-channel
In addition, social security institutions have recently begun to explore behavioural sciences to encourage behavioural change among citizens to improve their participation in social security schemes. (ISSA, 2023) Behavioural sciences explain how people behave, make decisions and respond to programmes, policies and incentives, applying rigorous methods to assess the impact of interventions and identify those that work (United Nations, n.d.). These disciplines combine social sciences and modern research methodologies such as behavioural economics and neuroscience. Their application in communication multiplies its effectiveness and influences people's change in behaviour (ISSA 2021d).
The International Social Security Association (ISSA) developed a behavioural insights framework for applying these techniques in social security (ISSA, 2021c). In designing and implementing an intervention using behavioural sciences, first, the desired behaviours of individuals are identified; then, the barriers to the desired behaviours are identified from the perspective of individuals' capacity, opportunity and motivation; and finally, the outcomes are evaluated by considering the retention of key messages, understanding, intention for the expected behaviour after being informed, and feelings generated. (ISSA, 2021d).
Experiences of ISSA member institutions
ISSA supports social security institutions in developing their multi-channel communication and communication strategies through the ISSA Guidelines on information and communication technologies (ISSA, 2022a), good governance (ISSA, 2019b), communication of social security administrations (ISSA, 2022b) and service quality (ISSA, 2019a).
The experiences presented below show the variety of multi-channel communication initiatives developed by social security institutions in the Americas to reach and interact more effectively with more significant numbers of members and the general public.
Colombian Pension Administrator, Colombia
The Colombian Pension Administrator (Administradora Colombiana de Pensiones – COLPENSIONES), is responsible for the state administration and payment of the Average Premium Scheme (RPM) and the Periodic Economic Benefits Savings System (BEPS). It also offers welfare alternatives to its elderly members. For this reason, since 2017, it has developed a welfare and quality of life management model in its value-added services proposal. This proposes an innovative and inclusive offer of services aimed at the elderly, allowing them to improve their welfare and, above all, to reconnect them with their purpose in life. This model reaches its members and beneficiaries and the entire elderly population through an approach of comprehensive coverage and scalability (Colombian Pension Administrator, 2023a).
The design of the management model began with the first study on the economics of ageing in Colombia, called "Silver Revolution, the Power of a generation", to understand the social and economic dynamics of older people. The study included a multi-dimensional measurement of people's well-being (income and poverty, employment and education, infrastructure and security, health, social connections and household composition); sociological analysis of ageing and old age; consumption habits of older adults and their households; and the opportunities and challenges of the older population in different economic sectors and entrepreneurship. Based on the study's results in 2019, the "Well-being Model" was built, integrating 12 products and programmes to contribute to the well-being and quality of life of older adults (Colombian Pension Administrator, 2023a).
One of the first initiatives was the Silverexpo Bogotá 2019, the first Latin American and Colombian fair for older adults, which was consolidated as a targeted communication strategy for this population. SIlverexpo has become the most important event under an intergenerational approach of entrepreneurship, culture, learning, entertainment and well-being for older people, family members, friends and caregivers. The 2020 edition of the fair was called Silver Connection and was held virtually due to social distancing measures. The 2022 edition was held under the name "Silver Cities" with a presence in the cities of Bogota, Barranquilla, Cali and Medellin (Colombian Pension Administrator, 2023b).
Family Allowances Fund, Colombia
Colombia's Family Allowances Fund (Caja de Compensación Familiar – COMPENSAR) implemented a digital platform called "Bienestar a la Carta". By using new technologies (data analytics, Big Data, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence) it allows affiliated companies to understand the behaviour of their workers. By registering on the platform, workers can include information related to their life projects, hobbies, tastes, challenges to achieve their well-being and other relevant data that allow the tool to understand their environment and key life moments (COMPENSAR - Family Allowances Fund, 2023; Tovar Rojas, 2023).
Based on the profiling and the challenges posed by users, the platform's engine gives personalized recommendations (resources, activities, services and other alternatives) that impact their skills, life projects and the development of their overall well-being. This strategy recognizes the relevance of workers' well-being and the relationship between workers' motivation and companies' productivity.
This strategy adopts a user-centred approach, customizing the information provided to users according to the analysis of their challenges and needs. The personalized proposal of services, resources and alternatives, recommended to workers covers education and training, skills development, personal and family well-being, recreation and sport, tourism and discount programmes, among others. The offer of these services, resources and alternatives can be provided by the companies themselves, by COMPENSAR or by external partners.
National Commission of the Retirement Savings System, Mexico
The National Commission of the Retirement Savings System (Comisión Nacional del Sistema de Ahorro para el Retiro – CONSAR), is responsible for regulating the Retirement Savings System in Mexico, and developed a solution called "CONSAR Family of Retirement Savings Calculators" (Calculators), which estimates, under certain assumptions, the amount of the possible old-age pension and the voluntary savings measures that could be taken to improve the amount of the pension. The calculators estimate the pension amount of those workers who will retire under defined contribution schemes based on individual accounts (National Commission of the Retirement Savings System, 2023).
The main challenges in the design of the Calculators were that the information required for the calculation and the results generated should be clear, easy to understand and instructive. The calculation should also consider whether or not the minimum requirements for accessing the pension are met, or whether the accumulated balance is sufficient to reach the amount of the minimum guaranteed pension. In addition, it was essential to answer people's questions: How much pension savings will I have accumulated at a certain age? What will the estimated amount of the pension be? How much should I save each month in addition and voluntarily to reach the estimated or desired amount?
The Calculators show the estimated pension amount and the possible replacement rate as indicators of the adequacy of the amount. Concerning voluntary savings, they present different scenarios of the pension that could be achieved, depending on the amount of monthly voluntary savings made. The latest version of the application integrated visual and graphic elements to show the growth of the pension balance over time, as well as new scenarios for voluntary savings. It also integrated the concept of "hormiga expenses", derived from everyday purchases that are not perceived as significant, and their impact on voluntary savings if this expenditure were transformed into savings.
This tool provides users with relevant and personalized information, seeking to encourage them to take a conscious and active role in their retirement savings. The aim is for people to analyse the benefits of voluntary savings to recognize the importance of being registered in a Retirement Fund Administrator (AFORE) that provides a higher yield and to understand the effects of postponing the retirement age to increase the savings period and, therefore, the estimated amount of the pension.
Derrama Magisterial, Peru
Derrama Magisterial, Peru's welfare and social security institution for public teachers, implemented various strategies to inform, advise and train its members and the teaching population. These initiatives contributed to an increase in teacher enrolment, an increase in the number of members with access to the institution's mobile applications, a more significant digital culture, and an improvement in member satisfaction and brand positioning among the teaching population.
The institution implemented the telephone pension advisory service with specialised staff, considering the mobility restrictions of the pandemic, to guide, advise and promote the affiliation of teachers, with particular emphasis on those in medium and distant regions (Derrama Magisterial, 2023a). In parallel, it created a network of trained support staff to assist affiliated teachers in using the digital application and promote their digital inclusion, focusing mainly on the older age group with the most significant gap in using digital tools. The assistance was provided personally, mainly by telephone, and gradually expanded to face-to-face assistance. Telephone assistance was strengthened by sending information through digital channels (email and instant messaging via SMS and WhatsApp) (Derrama Magsterial, 2023b).
Derrama Magisterial sent account statements by e-mail to all its members to ensure access to information on the progress and growth of their pension fund for those members who do not use or do not have access to the mobile application. These e-mails also promoted the registration of Beneficiary Designation Letters and the updating of data (Derrama Magisterial, 2023c). After the suspension of face-to-face events, the institution strengthened the academic training and teaching career actions of affiliates and teachers through social networks and digital media. The first edition of workshops and courses was carried out through video conferences after online registration. The courses and workshops in the second stage were broadcast free through its YouTube channel. This initiative was accompanied by information and awareness-raising campaigns on the convenience of taking up the challenge and training through online courses so that the professional development of teachers would not be interrupted by the health restrictions (Derrama Magisterial, 2023d).
Table 1 summarises the main results achieved by these institutions in implementing multi-channel communication strategies.
|DERRAMA MAGISTERIAL, Peru||
Critical success factors
Information and communication strategies require planning, alignment with institutional objectives and goals, and management support. In COLPENSIONES, the communication strategy aimed at the elderly responded to the institutional objectives where this group is a priority part of its target population, which allowed institutional efforts and budgetary resources to be combined to obtain and exceed the expected results. In COMPENSAR, adopting new technologies responds to the institutional strategy of investing and developing technology-based solutions to impact a larger population with a more relevant welfare offer. In Derrama Magisterial, the commitment of senior management allowed the multi-channel communication strategy to have support from different areas of the institution and the necessary budgetary resources for its deployment.
Communication must be centred on users, focusing on meeting their needs, considering their expectations, and using a variety of channels available to reach the most significant number of people. In COLPENSIONES, the range of cultural, training, wellness, leisure, social and entrepreneurial activities offered at the fairs for older adults, both in person (Silverexpo) and virtually (Conexión Silver), was based on knowledge of the needs, expectations and motivations of this population, valuing their relevance and potential to continue contributing to society. COMPENSAR's strategy, through a digital platform, seeks to generate a long-term relationship with users through in-depth and dynamic knowledge of their needs at different points in their lives. It aims to provide them with a relevant, comprehensive offer, enabling them to develop skills and thus accompany them in achieving their well-being projects. At CONSAR, the Calculators focus on the information needs of workers and the uncertainty about their retirement conditions, providing them with clear information on the estimation of the amount of their old-age pension and the voluntary savings scenarios that the worker must achieve to improve their pension conditions. The communication strategies of the Derrama Magisterial focused on users. They sought to keep them informed, oriented and trained through different channels so that they could access social welfare services without interruption.
Integrating interdisciplinary work teams allows them to focus on a single shared objective, facilitates collaboration and innovation, and increases the chances of success. In COLPENSIONES, the integration of an interdisciplinary team to carry out the study on the social and economic dynamics of the elderly allowed them to take a 360 degree look at their needs, motivations, expectations and capabilities, which resulted in increased knowledge and understanding of the target users of the communication strategy.
As the ISSA Guidelines on the communication of social security administrations state, information and communication play a fundamental role in the functioning and effectiveness of social security institutions. It also contributes to the development of a social security culture that facilitates the exercise of people's rights and responsibilities Communication allows the acquisition of capacities to make informed decisions that facilitate individual participation in social protection schemes and the improvement of their welfare conditions.
Successful interaction of institutions with members and the public depends not only on the quality and efficiency of the services they provide, but also on the effectiveness of their communication strategies, which allow them to meet the needs and expectations of users in a timely, clear and precise manner, generating positive experiences in their interactions with the institution.
As the good practices presented in this article show, institutions recognize that a broad understanding of users' needs, expectations, behaviours and motivations is fundamental to successful communication strategies. It also helps to provide a personalized service and experience that responds to their needs and meets their expectations.
In this context, the multi-channel strategy integrates a set of digital and other channels to improve communication with users according to their contact preferences, types of access and use, whilst expanding the impact of communication and reaching a more significant number of people. Knowledge of users and their contact preferences is a determining factor in defining the most appropriate channels for interacting with them. Information and communication through the different media should be consistent and respond to the institutional communication capabilities, but should be adapted to the characteristics of each channel and user preferences.
To capitalise on all the benefits of a multi-channel strategy, it is essential to have mechanisms to adequately manage all channels and review the feedback that users send through the different channels. It is recommended that institutions proactively monitor and follow up on the impact of the channels and the level of user satisfaction and implement actions to correct observed deviations and enhance results.
Despite the challenges in implementing these practices, social security institutions are increasingly adopting advanced communication techniques and achieving positive results. For its part, the ISSA supports the strengthening of member institutions in these innovative areas through the knowledge and services it makes available.
Colombian Pension Administrator. 2023a. Study: Silver revolution, the power of a generation - Characteristics and socioeconomic conditions of older people in Colombia (Good practices in social security). Geneva, International Social Security Association.
Colombian Pension Administrator. 2023b. Silverexpo: Latin America’s first trade fair for older people and their families (Good practices in social security). Geneva, International Social Security Association.
COMPENSAR - Family Allowances Fund. 2023. “Well-being on demand”: A comprehensive well-being solution (Good practices in social security). Geneva, International Social Security Association.
Derrama Magisterial. 2023a. Providing a telephone social security advice service for teachers in Peru - Bridging gaps, promoting social security culture (Good practices in social security). Geneva, International Social Security Association.
Derrama Magisterial. 2023b. Digital inclusion for teachers through a support service staffed by promoters (Good practices in social security). Geneva, International Social Security Association.
Derrama Magisterial. 2023c. Implementing a management system for provident fund statements (Good practices in social security). Geneva, International Social Security Association.
Derrama Magisterial. 2023d. Improving educational training for teachers through the use of social networks and digital media - A solid and free training platform (Good practices in social security). Geneva, International Social Security Association.
ISSA. 2019a. ISSA Guidelines on service quality. Geneva, International Social Security Association.
ISSA. 2019b. ISSA Guidelines on good governance. Geneva, International Social Security Association.
ISSA. 2021a. Priorities for social security - Americas 2021: Trends, challenges and solutions. Geneva, International Social Security Association.
ISSA. 2021b. Comunicación de los beneficiarios y el público con las instituciones de seguridad social (webinar). Geneva, International Social Security Association.
ISSA. 2021c. Education and culture in social security: Good practices in Latin America. Geneva, International Social Security Association.
ISSA. 2021d. ISSA framework for the application of behavioural science: Recommended approach. Geneva, International Social Security Association.
ISSA. 2022a. ISSA Guidelines on information and communication technology. Geneva, International Social Security Association.
ISSA. 2022b. ISSA Guidelines on communication by social security administrations. Geneva, International Social Security Association. Geneva, International Social Security Association.
ISSA. 2023. Communication as a key asset in social security (Session of the Regional Social Security Forum for the Americas 2023). Geneva, International Social Security Association.
National Commission of the Retirement Savings System. 2023. Collection of retirement savings calculators (Good practices in social security). Geneva, International Social Security Association.
Technical Commission on Information and Communication Technology. 2022. The ICT response to COVID-19: Harnessing the accelerating digital transformation to build better and more resilient social protection systems (Synthesis Report 2020-2022). Geneva, International Social Security Association.
Tovar Rojas, P. M. 2023. Plataforma de soluciones de bienestar integral (Presentation at the Regional Social Security Forum for the Americas 2023). Geneva, International Social Security Association.
United Nations. (n.d.) Secretary-General's Guidance Note on behavioural science. New York, NY.