Organisations Must Do More to Support Vulnerable Customers During Economic Crises, Says HGS

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The cost-of-living crisis has shifted the definition of “vulnerable customers” in the UK.

Economic challenges are severely impacting people, meaning an increasing number are now falling into this category.

For organisations and leaders delivering customer service, being able to adapt to meet these new challenges while ensuring customer contact teams can provide empathetic communication is crucial for any business.

HGS, a business process management firm, is encouraging businesses to take proactive measures to support vulnerable customers. The company is urging organisations to engage with external organisations that can provide guidance and support needed to implement changes as soon as possible.

Rob Irons, Public Sector Development Director at HGS, suggests that retraining agents is one way for organisations to improve their approach to vulnerable customers. New modules should be designed to enable teams in contact centres to identify trigger words or phrases that may indicate vulnerable customers. For example, for someone experiencing financial difficulty, agents should be able to grant the customer access to any assistance programmes provided by the organisation.

Vital skills for agents

Empathy and listening skills are two vital skills that need to be developed by agents. Agents have a duty of care to the customer, and having the ability to listen more than talk encourages an open and honest discussion. Often, customers may mention that they are experiencing illness or job loss, which can help agents assess their level of vulnerability and provide appropriate help.

Managers must also give agents autonomy to have longer conversations with customers they deem to be vulnerable, building trust and ensuring they help them in the best, most appropriate way. For contact centres that have historically measured service through Average Handling Time (AHT) metrics, this might mean changing the service standard so that empowered employees can make the judgement call themselves as to how best to support a customer.

Businesses need to effectively communicate what support they can offer and how so people know what to expect before they reach out. Many customers may not even realise that they are vulnerable or that help is out there for them, so understanding what businesses can do for them may prompt them to get in touch.

It’s important to recognise that employees may be experiencing the same hardships as customers. From financial wellbeing training to mental health support, there are many ways that organisations can offer help to their staff, ensuring they are coping well and able to support customers without negatively impacting their own mental health and wellbeing.

Customer’s communication choices

Finally, customers must have a choice of how they communicate, and mechanisms provided that make them feel comfortable. The introduction of technology and new communication channels can really help here. At HGS, the company’s solutions are driven by how customers want to converse with them, and their technology supports this. For example, they have introduced WhatsApp across a number of services as a channel that provides a more anonymised way of making contact, using a channel that many people now feel more comfortable with.

In conclusion, businesses must adapt to meet the changing needs of vulnerable customers. With the right approach, they can provide the guidance and support that these customers need during difficult times. By retraining agents, developing empathy and listening skills, providing effective communication, supporting employees, and offering different channels of communication, businesses can ensure they support their customers the first time, every time.

About HGS

HGS are a global leader in the customer experience lifecycle, digital transformation, and business process management. HGS is helping its clients become more competitive every day.

HGS combines automation, analytics, and artificial intelligence with high-quality talent and deep domain expertise to achieve superior outcomes in the areas of digital customer experience, back-office processing, contact centres, and HRO solutions. In finding the perfect balance of people and technology, we build their clients’ businesses for the future.

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