How can contact centres help vulnerable customers in 2022?

vulnerable customers call recordingTimes are hard for many members of the community right now:  with the cost of living increasing, public expenditure and services being cut, and the threat of recession looming, its often those least able to cope who are worst affected. Indeed, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau has recently published statistics projecting that the number of people they help with crisis support this year will be double that of 2021.

In fact, in the past few months, we have seen regulatory bodies and trade organisations double down on their consumer protection remits:

The FCA published in June this year a “New Consumer Duty”, which focuses on ensuring customer understanding of financial products being sold, and on identifying and supporting the vulnerable. Vulnerability.

For contact centre teams in turn, this results in an increased focus on the correct treatment and support of customers, both at a compliance level, but also simply on a human level.

It’s not unusual, when customers fall on hard times for contact centres to be an early port of call.  It may be that the customer needs to rearrange payments, cancel a direct debit, or sometimes it’s simply just to speak to someone – anyone – about their worries. It’s important then, that when customers are at their most vulnerable, they are given the respect protection and support they need to make the right decisions.

In this context, frontline staff – and their managers – need to be alert to the tell-tale signs of vulnerability, some of which are more obvious than others.

Signs such as:

  • Emotional distress,
  • problems staying focused
  • an inability to understand or follow a conversation
  • Language barriers
  • Mentions of family members making decisions for them

Staff can of course be trained to spot these signs, and most will naturally be empathetic towards a vulnerable caller, but it’s not always possible for staff to pick up these tells straightaway.  In these instances, nobody wants mistakes to be made, or for a customer to come off the call having made a decision they regret.

It’s in this context that the recording of calls, appropriately and compliantly, is in the best interest of all parties.

Primarily, the ability to record and review calls involving vulnerable customers represents an opportunity to ensure internally that the correct safeguards are being adhered to, and that any shortcomings are swiftly addressed.

Secondly, recordings, when appropriately and sensitively tagged, can provide an opportunity for organisations to proactively reach out to customer of concern, or develop a common approach to better help these groups.

Thirdly, with many different bodies implementing guidelines around how to deal with vulnerability, it’s important that the contact centre team maintain an evidence base of all interactions undertaken, potentially across different platforms and channels, and likely over an extended time period.

Enabling continuous improvement

While call recordings do provide an important role in demonstrating compliance and protecting the business, an arguably more valuable role is in how, by analysing that captured data, organisations have an opportunity to implement continuous improvement plans.

By analysing interactions collectively across channels, call recording provides insights into trends in the market – for example times of year where vulnerability issues arise, geographic locations that may benefit from doorstep support, percentage growth of vulnerable customers within the customer base and so on. This in turn can inform future vulnerability policies, pricing decisions, and provide a base of evidence which can be shared with community groups, regulators, and other stakeholders to instigate broader actions to help customers.

At Liquid Voice, we’re convinced of the value of using call recordings for good – whether purely to ensure compliance with regulations and best practice, or in better understanding how to help customers at a more human level.  If you need assistance supporting your customers in this way, pleas get in touch, we’d be happy to talk.