The Vulnerability Challenge – Why Vulnerability Matters
Supporting customers in vulnerable circumstances is now a priority for organisations and the regulators – including the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), OFGEM, and OFCOM – that oversee them.
In some sectors, regulators have issued guidance on their expectations and clearly stated they will be overseeing activity whilst applying a ‘vulnerability lens’. While in other sectors, professional membership bodies have launched charters or commitments they want their members to sign up to.
In their Financial Lives Survey issued in February 2021, the FCA noted an increase in the number of customers displaying characteristics of vulnerability throughout 2020, with 27.7m (53% of the UK adult population) recognised in this way. In addition, they noted that the impact of Covid-19 has been “profound”.
The mental health charity Mind also warned us in their 2020 report “The Mental Health Emergency” that the pandemic is “taking a huge toll on our mental health and wellbeing, and will continue to have lasting effects long after lockdown is over”.
The scale and scope of vulnerable circumstances are wide and complex. As a result, almost every organisation will be interacting with customers with additional product or service needs on a daily basis. Sadly, many businesses fail to recognise vulnerable customers until it’s too late – or fail to do so at all.
An increase in home working has also created vulnerabilities for the employees serving vulnerable customers and amplified the need for organisations to support their employees – as well as vulnerable customers. Fortunately, it’s now more common for businesses to have open and honest conversations with employees about their mental health and well-being.
There can be no further delays in these conversations, now is the time to act. For those organisations who have already started to consider customers with additional support requirements, now is the time to review your working practices and ensure your solutions are still fit for purpose.
For those organisations who are yet to start, it’s time to act and build an understanding of what’s required and how you can take action and deliver fair outcomes for all. This will require some investment – both in terms of budget spend and time.
With this in mind, here are ten reasons why you should invest in recognising vulnerability and making reasonable adjustments:
- Improved profitability – understanding your customers better will lead to improved brand trust, retention rates, brand loyalty, and brand advocacy, which will all contribute to the bottom line.
- Regulatory requirement – many of the regulators are now demanding regulated sectors deliver fair outcomes for all customers.
- Minimise risk of regulatory fines, poor customer retention, and a PR scandal – substantial fines have already been issued to firms who have not served their vulnerable customers fairly.
- Improved customer experience – by better understanding your customers’ needs and wants, you can deliver a substantially improved customer experience.
- Customers are demanding better service – it’s not just the regulators (and the Equalities Act!) who are demanding fairness for all, customers are demanding it too. If you don’t deliver, they will leave and go to competitors.
- Improved staff engagement – by equipping your teams with clarity and understanding of vulnerability via training, they are better able to recognise customers who require reasonable adjustments and are empowered to make those changes. Empowered and engaged staff will remain with the organisation longer, reducing staff attrition and the associated costs of rehiring and training replacements.
- Clear non-conflicting policies and procedures – by understanding the customer and employee needs you will be better able to assess your policies to identify where there are conflicts or disconnects. Once identified, they can be resolved, helping to remove barriers for both staff and customers.
- Discover supporting tools and infrastructure that you can link into – technology is developing at an astonishing pace. Learn how you can use both internal and external supporting technology and services to support your employees to deliver an improved service.
- To ensure safeguarding of consumers in vulnerable circumstances
- It’s the right thing to do!
To help your organisation compliantly and responsibly recognise vulnerable customers within the UK and make the appropriate reasonable adjustment to ensure inclusivity, attend the new Masterclass: How to recognise vulnerable customers and make reasonable adjustments.
Written by Elaine Lee, Managing Director, ReynoldsBusbyLee Ltd, and Jacqui Workman, Managing Director, KMB Ltd.