«Communicating with customers of retirement age by Sarah Jenkins, John Higton and Elizabeth Lane Department for Work and Pensions Research Report No ...»
6.1 shows, by far the most frequently used medium of communication was the television; 83 per cent of all participants watched one every day. In addition, the use of both landlines and national newspapers was fairly high, with nearly half of all customers saying they use these on a daily basis (48 per cent and 46 per cent respectively).
By contrast, fewer participants said they used mobile phones or the internet frequently; with fewer than one in five customers using each of these every day (18 per cent and 19 per cent respectively).
Usage of the internet was particularly low with only one in four (24 per cent) accessing it at least once a week and over six in ten never using it at all.
Figure 6.1 Frequency of using modes of communication
Overall, this means that participants were familiar with well established communication technologies, and these are therefore more likely to be effective tools for communicating to those over retirement age. However, there may be some limited scope offering services via newer technologies to particular audiences as discussed in more detail below.
6.2 Use of mobile phones and the internet Government departments are keen on modern communication methods because they are believed to deliver cost savings compared to traditional communications media.
The findings show that the use of mobile phone and internet decreased steadily as household income fell. Although the numbers using both a mobile phone and the internet on a regular basis were low, usage of these was higher among the more affluent. Those with a weekly household income of over £150 were more likely to be regular internet users than those on lower incomes (44 per cent compared to 28 per cent). Those who had a comfortable standard of living were also more likely to use the internet, at two in five (43 per cent), compared to three in ten who said they did not have a comfortable lifestyle (30 per cent).
People who said they ‘needed Government benefits in order to live’ were less likely to use a mobile phone or the internet compared to those who said they did not need benefits. Over a half of the latter used both mobile phones and the internet regularly (56 per cent and 51 per cent respectively).
In comparison, a smaller proportion of those reporting they need benefits to live were regular users of both technologies, especially the internet (46 per cent mobile phones, 25 per cent the internet).
The apparent link between the usage and affluence, especially in the case of the internet, is also reflected when the findings are analysed by segment. For example, the Asset Rich, Cash Sufficient and Prosperous Independents were more likely to use the internet than on average (49 per cent and 66 per cent respectively, compared to 38 per cent for all participants). Findings from the qualitative research also showed that Prosperous Independents were the heaviest users of the internet, which this group used to find information on a range of topics from news to holidays.
However, the qualitative research found that the Asset Rich, Cash Sufficient and Prosperous Independents had some help from their adult children, who provided advice on a range of topics from finance to how changes in Government (and DWP) policy might affect their parents. Members of the other segments said that they are much more reliant on traditional forms of media and talked a lot less about family. They did, however, use other informal networks such as faith groups (Suburban Non-Engagers) and community centres (Urban Underprivileged).
Mobile phone users were also more likely to be internet users (or vice versa). Four in ten of those who did not use the internet regularly said they used a mobile phone (40 per cent) compared to seven in ten of those who said they were regular internet users (69 per cent). Similarly, of those who did not use a mobile phone regularly, only a quarter (24 per cent) used the internet. This doubled amongst those who did use a mobile phone (52 per cent).
6.2.1 Ease, and future use of, mobile phones and the internet People who used mobile phones and the internet said they were at ease with them. Over four in five mobile phone and internet users said they felt comfortable using these devices (85 per cent for both), compared to a tenth of users who said they were uncomfortable (11 per cent and eight per cent respectively). As mentioned before, it is worth noting that use of both technologies was higher amongst younger age groups. This may be a reflection of the use of modern communications in working life prior to reaching retirement age.
46 Communications and technology We also sought to explore how likely people were to take up more regular use of these media in the future, and any reasons against doing so. Non-users were resistant to taking up new technologies;
over eight in ten said it was unlikely they would use either technology frequently in the future (85 per cent mobile phones, 83 per cent internet), meaning that the use of either technology has limited growth potential amongst PDCS’s customer base.
Indifference was the main barrier towards take-up of new technologies. Nearly a third of those who said they were unlikely to use the internet said they were not interested (32 per cent) whilst one in six (17 per cent) said the same about mobile phones. Similarly, around one in five said that mobile phones and the internet were not for them (21 per cent and 17 per cent respectively). Over a quarter of those who were unlikely to increase use of a mobile phone said they had one for emergencies only (27 per cent).
Fewer participants cited problems with the usability of new technology as a barrier. Only a tenth said the internet was too complicated to use (ten per cent), and even fewer said this about mobile phones (six per cent). In the case of the internet, one in five (21 per cent) said they would not know how to use it. As earlier findings showed those who did use both technologies were comfortable doing so, this indicates that any perceived complexity is not necessarily a large barrier to the use of new technologies, although non-users’ opinions are less likely to be based on experience.
Demographic changes and personal interest may change the proportion of older people using new technologies in the future. In the case of demographics, those of pre-retirement age are more likely to use new media in their working and social lives and so own and use these technologies. It seems likely that as they retire, they are likely to keep using these technologies because they can appreciate their value. For older groups, take-up may increase if they can see a benefit for using such media. Should mobile phones or the internet add something to their lives by, for example, helping them communicate with their family, then they may be more likely to develop an interest in general.
6.3 Mobile phone usage Although most mobile phone users did use features such as sending and receiving text messages frequently, they were mostly unwilling to receive Government information this way. Of those who used mobile phones frequently, over two-thirds received text messages (68 per cent), and three in five sent messages (60 per cent). However, only a quarter (26 per cent) were willing to receive messages from Government in this way.
Whilst only five per cent accessed the internet via their mobile phones, the high use of text message services suggested that the majority of participants who said they used a mobile phone may be able to receive information this way.
It is important to note that Frugal Dependents, who have a markedly older age profile, were far less likely to use text message features than average (37 per cent received text messages, and 29 per cent sent text messages). They were almost twice as likely to say they used no text or internet features of a mobile phone (57 per cent compared to 30 per cent overall).
In line with usage overall, those who used the internet on a regular basis were also more likely than average to use text message features of a mobile phone (84 per cent received messages, 78 per cent sent them). This implies that those using modern technologies more generally were also more open to using mobile phones for more than just telephone calls.
Those who do not use either mobile phones or the internet regularly.
Communications and technology 47 Although most participants said they did not want text messages from Government, more were willing to receive information verbally over the phone. Nearly half (47 per cent) of all participants, whether mobile phone users or not, said they would be willing to receive Government information by a member of staff calling them, with a similar proportion who would be willing to call a Government telephone helpline (54 per cent). So, although most mobile phone users said they were comfortable with the technology, there was still a preference for talk over text as a means of communication.
6.4 Internet usage Internet users were receptive to the idea of searching for, and receiving Government information online. Indeed a significant proportion said they had received, or would be willing to receive, information on Government services and benefits in this way.
The most commonly reported reason for using the internet was to communicate with friends and family (87 per cent) or to buy goods online (74 per cent). The second of these indicates an appetite amongst internet users for online transactional services.
Over half of internet users had searched for information about Government services (53 per cent) online; the same proportion who said they had checked bank statements via the internet (53 per cent). This suggests that these participants were proactive in looking for information online.
Furthermore, a similar proportion said that, in principle, it was a good idea for the Government to provide information via the internet (55 per cent). Amongst internet users, almost two-thirds would be willing to receive information about Government services and benefits through the internet (62 per cent), whereas a third (34 per cent) would not. Although there was resistance to this form of communication from some, the fact that two-thirds of internet users were receptive to receiving information via the web illustrates the importance of providing access to information through this medium. Of those who used the internet who were open to receiving information through the
internet were interested in a range of topics:
• the vast majority would be willing to receive information about health services (87 per cent);
Government health benefits (86 per cent); Government benefits (84 per cent); and information on free bus passes, leisure activities and education (79 per cent);
• a smaller proportion was willing to find out about financial services (57 per cent), and only a quarter would want information on how to manage debt communicated through the internet (26 per cent). The group in favour of receiving information on debt via the internet was predominantly made up of Asset Rich, Cash Sufficient and Prosperous Independent customers, who, as seen earlier, were also more likely to seek financial help about savings and investments than other groups. This finding suggests these segments may be more averse to debt.
Interestingly, two-thirds of all customers said they were not happy to send personal information over the internet (66 per cent). This appears to contradict the earlier finding that three-quarters of internet users (74 per cent) said they buy goods online. This implies that the meaning of ‘personal information’ in the context of the question either is not thought of as relating to financial transactions, or that such transactions were completed despite reservations about sending personal data. Overall, the finding does suggest a distrust of using the internet for sending personal information. Coupled with previous findings that show customers preferred face-to-face communication or advice over the telephone, it appears that the internet would not be an effective means of completing transactions with all retired people.
48 Communications and technology 6.5 Receiving Government communications Finally, we explored how customers over 60 felt about Government information, and how they would like to receive help and advice on issues of health and finance. As we have already seen, the majority of customers preferred face-to-face advice on health (91 per cent) and financial (63 per cent) issues. With this in mind, the findings further show that half of customers (49 per cent) felt it was easy to obtain Government information, whereas one-third (33 per cent) said it was not easy.
Moreover, half of those who felt the government did not do a good job providing services to over 60s felt that information was not easy to obtain (50 per cent). Thus, there is a core of PDCS customers who believe information services are lacking.
Furthermore, whilst three in five (60 per cent) found Government information useful, one in five did not (20 per cent). As would be expected, those who felt the Government did not do a good job providing services to over 60s were far more negative about the utility of Government information.
Under half of those agreed such information was useful (44 per cent) whereas three quarters of those who did think the Government does a good job providing services felt the same about Government information (75 per cent).
The qualitative research found that, in common with much of the research Ipsos MORI conducts with the UK population, most customers do not differentiate between their views of specific departments from those about the ‘Government’ itself; to many customers, they are one and the same. Older people talked about DWP in relation to any payments or benefits they received, and typically used the word ‘Government’ when discussing the benefits they received (Winter Fuel Allowances, benefit payments in general, etc.).
Whilst the internet may be a more cost effective delivery mechanism, the data suggests that it would be a less effective way of communicating, especially with older participants. Only a small proportion of participants used the internet, and said they would be willing to receive information via this medium. In order for communications to reach as many customers as possible, the data suggests that mixed methods are important. New media appear to be part of this mix, but are not a replacement for other, more traditional, methods.