Supporting Vulnerable Customers Should Be Your Number-One Priority

In our most recent blog, we explored the importance of WCAG compliance in supporting both your customers and employees. But supporting vulnerable customers doesn’t stop at checking a box on a compliance form. With the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) announcing yesterday that it was launching a comprehensive review of how firms treat vulnerable customers, there’s never been a more pressing time to address vulnerable customers.

As established in our previous blog, vulnerability isn’t always as obvious as it sounds, and it’s far more common than you might expect. When compared to the FCA’s vulnerability criteria, nearly 67% of UK customers could be classified as vulnerable. The key fact to bear in mind is that any of us could become vulnerable at any time; whether through illness, injury, or financial hardship. Only 17% of customers identify as vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean they’re entirely secure.

In this blog, we break down strategies for identifying and supporting vulnerable customers, implementation strategies for vulnerability support, and the organizational benefits of accommodating vulnerable customers and employees.

Before we continue, one of the sectors most experienced in handling vulnerability is healthcare. To understand how healthcare protects the most vulnerable patients in emergency situations, download our latest whitepaper: The Patient Revolution: How Customer Experience is Transforming Healthcare.

Identifying Vulnerable Customers

The FCA defines a vulnerable customer as someone who, due to their personal circumstances, is especially susceptible to detriment, particularly when a firm is not acting with appropriate levels of care’.

Within this definition, the FCA identifies four ‘drivers of vulnerability’. These are; health, life events, resilience, and capability:

  • Health – is probably the driver we most commonly associate with vulnerability. This driver includes physical disabilities, illness, hearing and visual impairment, mental health problems, or other cognitive disabilities.

  • Life Events This covers those disasters that strike suddenly, but that aren’t necessarily physical in nature. This includes any caring responsibilities, bereavement, income shock, the breakdown of a relationship, or any unusual circumstances, such as veteran or refugee status.

  • Resilience – This driver deals with consistent, low-level sources of vulnerability. This can include low levels of personal income, high levels of debt, lack of savings, or the lack of a comprehensive support structure.

  • Capability – This driver deals with factors specific to the organization or sector. For financial services, this covers customers who might not be familiar with financial concepts, who have poor numeracy or literacy, who aren’t fluent in English, or who lack digital skills.

In the UK alone, about half of adults, a total of 25.6 million people, meet one or more of these criteria. Those under 24 or over 65 are particularly at risk of falling deeper into vulnerability. Obviously, vulnerability is a sliding scale; those who meet more of these criteria will be at greater risk than those who only meet one or two.

The challenge for organizations is in leveraging scarce resources to support a potentially unlimited number of vulnerable customers. The first step in meeting this challenge is identifying vulnerability.

To do this, you need ways of tracking how customers move your customer contact ecosystem, and ensuring that their vulnerability is recognized at every stage of their journey. And that begins from the moment your customers get in contact.

Vulnerable Customers in the CX Ecosystem

From the moment a customer gets in contact, their vulnerability (or potential vulnerabilities) should be identified and noted. That starts with the IVR, or even before:

  • When a customer signs up with your organization, you should be capturing data about potential vulnerabilities. This is easier for financial organizations, which tend to accumulate a lot more customer data than other organizations about their customers.

  • From here, that data can be attached to a customer’s profile, alongside their contact details. This is done with a Customer Data Platform (CDP); a data fabric that unifies customer information from multiple systems of record and channels of communication.

  • When a customer reaches out through a voice call, they’re greeted immediately by an IVR that works to identify that customer. This can be done by cross-referencing details (e.g. address, date of birth) or through a unique PIN issued to each customer when they sign up.

  • Once identified, the customer can be routed to the best available outcome; this is done with reference to their vulnerability status. The most vulnerable customers will be placed into a priority queue to speak to a human agent as quickly as possible. Those who are not vulnerable can be directed to self-service options.

Once vulnerable customers have been identified and routed appropriately, you need to ensure they receive the highest quality of support from your agents. Training is essential here.

Training to Support Vulnerable Customers

Supporting vulnerable customers isn’t easy. Consider the quality of service you expect for the average customer; in the case of vulnerability that needs to be elevated even further. Providing your agents with the highest level of training in dealing with vulnerability is essential to your CX strategy.

One potential approach is the CARE system. This is a coaching model that agents can make use of to approach a vulnerable customer:

  • Comprehend – Does the customer fully understand the information they are receiving? Is there a way you can make sure they understand (without being patronizing)?

  • Assess – Is the customer asking questions that make sense? Do the points they make show that they understand what is happening?

  • Retain – Is the customer able to retain critical information, or do you find yourself having to repeat key facts?

  • Evaluate – Reflect on every interaction; send follow-up contacts to ensure the customer has had all their questions answered; implement feedback to improve performance in the next encounter.

Ensuring that your agents reliably implement this approach, or any other appropriate strategy for handling vulnerability, can be a challenge. Luckily, assessing a vast number of calls for quality and compliance is a challenge that technology can help with.

Supporting Vulnerable Customers through AI-Powered Technologies

To assess the quality and content of every customer interaction, you need comprehensive contact center transcription. That means transcribing every interaction, automatically, and then assessing those transcriptions for compliance.

AI-backed technologies can help us here. First, Natural Language Processing can be used to transcribe the content of a voice interaction. That transcription can then be subjected to generative AI summarization, and that information can be forwarded to supervisors or used to support future interactions.

And that’s not all AI-powered technologies can offer when supporting vulnerable customers.

  • AI can pick out keywords related to compliance statements, ensuring that legally required compliance statements are read on 100% of interactions.

  • AI-backed sentiment analysis gives supervisors insight into interactions in progress. AI can monitor customer sentiment in real time, and interactions of concern can be flagged to supervisors for intervention.

  • Agent performance can be broken down in detail, and that information is used to provide tailored feedback to agents after every interaction.

  • AI can work with agents during an interaction, offering customer knowledge articles and insights, generated in response to a call’s content.

AI tools offer new ways to support vulnerable customers. When responding to the FCA’s new vulnerability requirements, or improving customer support across your organization generally, leveraging the right tech is a critical first step.

Supporting Vulnerable Customers with storm®

Content Guru’s cloud CX platform, storm® offers a host of different ways to support vulnerable customers. From generative AI transcription and summarization to the comprehensive Customer Data Platform, storm provides all the tools you need to give vulnerable customers the support they need.

storm’s accessibility, scalability, and reliability make it a first choice for organizations looking to improve the support they offer their most vulnerable customers. To learn more about how Content Guru supports vulnerable patients in the healthcare space, download our latest whitepaper: The Patient Revolution: How Customer Experience is Transforming Healthcare.