Vanguard: Transition time is when?

This email from Vanguard merits a minor Fail for Creative.

It appears that Vanguard is moving its investment platform from one system to another, and needs customers to take action to support the move. The email explains to the customer that a “3-step transition” is required, and doing so would take a “few minutes.” It includes four FAQs, but that’s all. The Call to Action is to “Transition Now” by clicking a button, which leads customers to the typical login page.


Vanguard email to customers 

This email was sent to consumers. While one can assume consumers who use Vanguard for investments has some savvy, because they avoid the high fees of other investment companies, that does not mean they are familiar or comfortable with technical terms like “transition.” The opening, in all-caps — “YOUR ACCOUNT NEEDS TO BE TRANSITIONED” — has a tonality of forcefulness that is generally not in the Vanguard communications style. To the uninformed, the fact that the account where one’s retirement savings is managed needs to be “TRANSITIONED” is scary.

There is some explanation regarding the rationale for the move, but why not position this transition as an upgrade from the onset? Sell the benefits upfront.

Furthermore, the request to the customer lacks any immediacy. The Call to Action should include a respond-by date. Internally, perhaps a decision was made not to include a date in the communication now because the IT folks have a year-long implementation plan. But even a soft request to take action by a specific date would help a customer decide to take action. Otherwise, the customer might ignore this or prioritize this task somewhere between, say, replacing the baking soda in the refrigerator and watching the last season of House of Cards.

Below is my attempt to rewrite the main message in a communications style I more typically see from Vanguard. It includes an upfront communication of customer benefit and a timely (but soft) call to action, but avoids using industry jargon and scary words.
Dear [Customer Name],
We have upgraded our platform for customers like you to make and follow your investments. This new, flexible platform will allow us to save money and make continuous service improvements, which will benefit you as we can lower our costs to serve you and improve your online experience.
Please help us move your account to the upgraded investment platform by completing 3 easy steps. It’s quick and easy—taking less than 5 minutes of your time. Just log into your account using the button below to get started.
If you could complete these 3 steps by February 28, 2019, that will help us help you. Thank you for your consideration and your time.
It would also be useful to label the FAQs below the Call to Action simply, “Frequently Asked Questions” and consider offering a separate page on the Vanguard site with additional FAQs. Doing so would boost customer confidence while reducing the expense of calls to their customer service center.

  1. Avoid industry jargon in customer communications.
  2. Any request for a customer to take action should include a date.


Anonymous said...

Excellent! Totally agree with you.
Now, any chance you read all of the documents etc Vangard wants me to read & if so can you tell me in a few sentences what each one said?
O my stars I started into the "TRANSITION" tonight & I just want to run away!

Anonymous said...

For the transaction to go through you must answer questions about your annual salary, your employer, net worth and other personal information. This is BS. If they need to transition your account why do they need your consent? What if I refuse to transition? The SEC needs to look into this.

Anonymous said...

Heartily agree with the website's rewrite and both comments. I started this process twice and ended it at the personal information requests, then sent a blistering message to them. They keep sending the same letter about this "transitioning," with the same lack of information about when it has to be done and what will happen if you don't. After many years as a satisfied Vanguard client, I am looking into transferring my IRA and other funds elsewhere.
They say the government requires the information about net worth, something to do with preventing money laundering, but this sounds nuts. Surely the feds already know my net worth, and any money launderer would just laugh at this stupidaggine.
The website's rewrite is good, provided that upgrading is what Vanguard is actually doing. I'm starting to become a conspiracy theorist because of this kind of thing. Bogle would not allow it.