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how to support vulnerable customers

Supporting Vulnerable Customers | A Guide for Contact Centres

7 min read
Author Business Systems UK
Date Jun 20, 2024
Category Customer Experience
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Many people today are facing challenging circumstances as a result of the cost of living crisis. Contact Centres serve as vital lifeline for many, especially vulnerable customers; be it utilities, healthcare, or housing, contact centres are often the first point of contact for those in need. But with great reliance comes great responsibility. How do we ensure that the services provided by agents are not only efficient but also sensitive to the needs of the vulnerable? 

Business Systems recently hosted a thought-provoking webinar titled Supporting Vulnerable Customers. Shaunna Wilson, WEM Consultant at Business Systems was joined by Jamie Airey from our client UK Power Networks and Scott Budding from our partner, Calabrio, to delve deep into this important topic. Here are some of the key insights and learnings from the session.

Understanding Vulnerability

Jamie Airey from UK Power Networks emphasised the importance of identifying vulnerability, which can manifest in various forms, sometimes unexpectedly. For instance, individuals relying on medical equipment might not initially consider themselves vulnerable until a power outage occurs. Jamie stressed the significance of an upfront, open approach in identifying and addressing vulnerability. 

Challenges and Adaptations

Shaunna highlighted the growing vulnerability stemming from the cost of living crisis, leading to an increased need for support across a range of industries. However, she pointed out the importance of balancing automation with human interaction, especially in sensitive discussions about personal finances. 

Actionable Steps

Scott Budding, Sales Engineering Manager from Calabrio expressed the need for proactive measures across different channels to identify, support, and signpost vulnerable customers. He stressed the importance of training agents to recognise signs of vulnerability and take appropriate actions. 

Call Handling Standards and KPIs

The group discussed the usefulness of conducting quality assurance to ensure agents are equipped to handle vulnerable customers with sensitivity and empathy, emphasising the fact that some customers may be isolated and so delivering the right support will build trust.  

Training and Support for Agents

The panel unanimously agreed on the critical role of training and support for agents dealing with vulnerable customers. Jamie highlighted the use of real-life call scenarios for training, while Shaunna recommended the importance of monitoring agent well-being and providing necessary support to ensure their wellbeing is considered throughout too.  

Technology as an Enabler 

Interaction analytics play a role in supporting vulnerable customers. Jamie and Scott discussed how technology enables proactive identification, efficient handling, and continuous improvement in customer support processes. 

Agent Mental Health

Agents will be looking for the right support, the right work/life balance and the right salary.  The contact centre industry has a notoriously high staff turnover, so agents that are struggling with achieving the right balance or feel overwhelmed are more likely to churn. Shaunna advised that while staying as competitive as possible with salary is important, supporting agents with work/life balance can ultimately reduce attrition, which will give a better service to the end customer.   

Also strategies such as flexible scheduling, offering confidential support lines, and peer assistance were discussed as crucial elements in ensuring agent wellbeing. 

Lessons Learned and Moving Forward 

Reflecting on best practices, and the importance of continuous learning, the panel underlined the need for ongoing customer engagement and feedback, and highlighted the necessity of having a comprehensive strategy and policy in place to support vulnerable customers in the best way possible. 

At the end of the day, supporting vulnerable customers in contact centres is not just about providing a service; it’s about extending a lifeline to those in need. By embracing empathy, proactive measures, and the right combination of human touch and technological innovation, contact centres can truly make a difference in the lives of the those that need. 

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