This was the message shared by our expert panel during our webinar 26th March.
This session brought together experts from energy, water, customer vulnerability and technology to discuss how the current market served its customers. And in particular if the acceleration in digital services had excluded vulnerable customers.
As a group the message was that we should look at the needs of the customer and avoid definitions that could be sector specific or even isolate and exclude a customer. The Panel commented that, as an industry, we should move away from the vulnerability label and instead think about what a customer might be vulnerable to. The Priority Services Register was given as an example, having a child under 5 would be a qualifying vulnerability criterion, many of the panel commented that while they would qualify themselves, they didn’t need any additional support in the event of an outage.
Instead of vulnerability criteria we should look at these as additional needs and focus on how these could be addressed. We should spend time engaging with people who have additional needs, understand what motivates them and what stops the achieving their goals.
We were reminded that vulnerability shouldn’t be a scary subject and that (maybe as the result of the pandemic) the majority of customers could be vulnerable.
When addressing digital engagement again this should be to meet a customer need. To this end digital channels could be the preferred method of communication and be a saviour for some, this can help to engage customers and open up channels for them to make contact. It was recognised that digital offers efficiencies to suppliers which then frees up resource and allow time to be spent with customers who have greater needs.
Digital should be part of a package and should not be the only communication channel as this is when customers can be excluded. Used in the right way digital can enhance contact channels and provide better outcomes for those who chose to (or need to) engage digitally.
Josh Yorke, called for better collaboration across sectors to enhance digital access and reduce digital exclusion. He also encouraged cross sector sharing, encouraging suppliers (and other creditor) to allow customers to share their circumstance once. Taking away the repetition and making it easier for customer to address their situation holistically.
You can view the full webinar here….
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During the session we were unable to cover all the questions asked, these are answered below….
What is the best way to capture vulnerability in a digital platform is it best to ask the question or allow the customer to highlight their vulnerability to ourselves?
Whenever you’re wondering the best way to do something in a customer’s journey, the answer is always to ask your customers. They will tell you their needs are and then you can seek ideas from front line colleagues, customers and experts on how best to address those needs.
I would encourage you to seek input from people with lived experience of debt – there really is no better source and it strengthens your product offering to say it’s been co-developed with those organisations seek to influence – debtors. Someone like the Citizen’s Advice, StepChange or Changing Lives can help you connect with these customers directly. .
However, some general principles are:
· Agree on how you want customers to feel prior to, during and after disclosure and develop your digital solution in the channels and with the look, feel and language which evoke these feelings.
· Encourage only minimum disclosure required for an application/eligibility – customers are concerned their application will be rejected.
· Encourage full disclosure after application/eligibility has been approved.
· In a help section, have the option to disclose vulnerability (Monzo have made this untraceable to help victims of domestic/ financial abuse)
· Effective bots often work well – people prefer to disclose to a computer than a person (who’s response is unpredictable).
· All channels should connect (omnichannel) and be available to all across the organisation to ensure customers don’t have to repeat their vulnerabilities.
Reply provided by Carolyn Delehanty - Vulnerable Customer Experience Consultant