Being fair: how the landscape of dealing with vulnerable customers is changing

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Ricky Alfred 8th August 2017 3 minute read

Being fair: how the landscape of dealing with vulnerable customers is changing

In this month’s edition of Intelligence, Capita Customer Management’s Head of Corporate Social Responsibility Ricky Alfred reflects on the need to support vulnerable customers - and how organisations, agents and Capita are all able to make a difference.

It was just after the recession when a high intensity spotlight first began to be cast on financial services in particular. People were losing their homes, perhaps unnecessarily, because of the inflexibility of policies and processes that didn’t allow for someone to recover from a short-term difficulty. That inflexibility meant responses couldn’t be tailored for an individual and an individual’s circumstances.

Most companies know the right thing to do. If you ask them, ‘is it right that customers are at further detriment because of your policies’, they would naturally say no, it’s not. The challenge is in making the changes that ensure customers are treated fairly while maintaining business models and delivering for stakeholders – and I do think Capita can help there.

We’re very fortunate in having clients from multiple industries that have very developed solutions in this area. We’ve been involved in their creation, and there’s a lot of knowledge we can contribute to the training, the systems and everything else that needs to be in place.

Do companies want to do it? Yes they do because, ultimately, not treating people fairly becomes a reputational issue – and that’s when you lose customers. People want to buy products from responsible organisations. They want to know that if something happens in their personal life that will affect their circumstances, they are going to get some level of support and understanding from the organisations they’ve spent their money with. 

Where companies are finding it difficult is helping frontline staff with the training they need – and they absolutely do need it. They need to be able to recognise a scenario where someone is vulnerable and deal with it appropriately, first time, because that first interaction is crucial to the experience of and outcome for a vulnerable customer.

As good as our guys are, it’s difficult to speak to someone telling you a scenario that’s uncomfortable to hear. It’s hard to maintain professionalism when they’re describing a situation that may have a deep and affecting personal resonance in the life of the agent themselves.

They could be dealing with individuals who don’t even recognise themselves as vulnerable, and there’s an enormous amount of empathy and care required in responding to them in a way that does not make them feel bad for being in that situation.

I have to say, huge credit to our people that they manage to do that in the majority of instances.

Vulnerability shouldn’t be a stigma; it shouldn’t be something we can’t deal with. 

We need to get to a point where someone’s personal circumstances are not a reason for them to suffer further detriment at the hands of organisations they buy products or services from.

To read the August 2017 edition of Intelligence, alongside the rest of our archive, visit our Intelligence report hub here.

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