2. Skills and capability of staff
Staff play an important role in delivering good outcomes for vulnerable customers. Empower your staff to embed vulnerability in their work to get the best outcome for each and every customer. Senior staff and boards can avoid a policy/practice gap by ensuring that policies are embedded into the culture and processes of the entire business.
Much of this is down to having the right customer services and systems in place to enable staff to respond flexibly to the needs of vulnerable customers. Your current training is likely to need updating to help staff understand the common types of vulnerability they are likely to be seeing in these circumstances. Financial vulnerability will be on the rise, for sure, but your customers are likely to be facing multiple compounding issues such as bereavement, mental health problems and caring responsibilities too.
Larger businesses with significant customer services operations may already have specialist teams to handle vulnerable customers. But with the volumes of vulnerable customers likely to increase in the near future, you may need to augment these teams or upskill all your customer facing staff to be able handle the load appropriately.
3. Taking practical action (through product and service design, communications, customer service)
Be a beacon of stability in your customers’ cluttered lives. This means making it easy for your customers to find the products and services that meet their needs and making them aware of changes to your service levels or products.
Think about how your vulnerable customers might access this information. In the current climate, reduction in face-to-face services has meant that a lot of information is only available online and customers experience long wait times on phone lines. Yet many customers in vulnerable categories may struggle with access and usability of these channels. You’ll need to provide tailored options for these customers, such as exception policies that allow a nominated third party to call on a customer’s behalf. Don’t forget to make both your customers and your staff aware of them.
4. Monitoring and evaluation
The actions we’ve described are not a one-off exercise – embed your vulnerability approach into every aspect of your business including monitoring and evaluating the impacts of any action you take through testing and feedback. By having appropriate processes in place to assess where things have gone well and where they have not, you will be able to identify key gaps in your own service for vulnerable customers and make improvements.
If you don’t have a vulnerability strategy, you’ll certainly need one now.
It should be led and championed by senior management through effective communication and embedded in your firms’ culture, processes and practices.