A recent study by the Financial Conduct Authority found that 50 percent of U.K. consumers currently show one or more characteristics of potential vulnerability based on their health, financial resilience and capability, and life events that could have a detrimental impact on them. That’s potentially over 25 million people in the U.K. Vulnerable consumers are especially susceptible to detriment, particularly when an organization is not acting with appropriate levels of care.

Research collated by the DMA’s Contact Centre Council found that only 4 percent of surveyed contact center staff claim to always know when they are speaking with a vulnerable consumer – highlighting that most agents and frontline staff lack confidence with this sensitive subject.

It is imperative that all staff appreciate that customers’ circumstances are never static and they may be in a temporary or transitory state of vulnerability. Frontline employees in particular need training and support on how to make reasonable adjustments to reflect the needs of each customer.

Recognizing the Needs of Vulnerable Consumers and How to Make Adjustments

Training should cover a number of key areas to help attendees identify vulnerable consumers, understand what impact vulnerability could have on them and their behavior, and adapt their approach to give these consumers a positive experience. Delegates should leave training with a clear appreciation of the benefits to the customer, the employee and the organization by making changes to the service they deliver to customers with vulnerability.

In-person training can be an effective method, as it is interactive and practical in nature. Give attendees ample opportunities to reflect on their own experiences in customer service and how they might encounter a vulnerable consumer. Use a variety of learning techniques and activities to provide delegates with the best environment possible to learn in, including:

  • A mixture of presentation/lecture-styled teaching to help delegates to understand best practices
  • Group discussions and a practical workshop session to give attendees an outlet to share concepts and ideas, with team problem-solving tasks that allow them to work together to find a solution that they then present back to the whole group
  • Practical exercises to immerse attendees in potential scenarios that they may face in the future and to allow them to experience a vulnerable circumstance first-hand
  • Role-play scenarios to help delegates implement new techniques

This mixture of activities works perfectly in an environment that will likely contain participants who have different learning styles and experience. These activities also inject energy and optimism into a difficult subject and allow attendees to leave knowing they can implement change in their place of work.

Don’t be afraid to tackle this sensitive subject head-on – training of this nature will be hugely beneficial to numerous corporations and charities, and any employees who are customer-facing should participate. By increasing employees’ knowledge, understanding and experience, your organization will be sure to offer your vulnerable consumers a respectful and positive experience.