Features | 22/07/21

The fair treatment of vulnerable customers is a key issue for the financial services industry. The coronavirus pandemic has moved customer vulnerability further up the priority list with the Financial Conduct Authority’s guidance in the UK bringing some welcome clarity and structure to a foggy issue. So how can organisations ensure they’re treating customers fairly and dealing with every customer according to their individual needs?

The number one priority for firms is to ascertain exactly what their customers need. Some customers may not be aware that they have any specific requirements, while others may not wish to disclose any needs, with some actively try to hide their situation. It’s vital that front-line employees have the skills and tools at their disposal to identify any undisclosed or hidden needs and record these needs accurately.

This includes picking up particular verbal clues or behaviors, listening for background noise which might indiciate a specific need and recognizing a customer’s inability to understand certain information. Seemingly insignificant details can reveal hidden insight, making it imperative that all potentially useful information is logged accurately.

How data is logged is vitally important. Disparate systems and silos of information can deliver an incomplete picture of the customer. It’s possible to build up a comprehensive picture of the customer with a centralized complaint management system that captures every customer interaction across multiple communications channels. The result is a single version of the truth for every future interaction, ensuring employees have access to a holistic view of the customer at any one time. This record of all interactions can uncover further specific needs with patterns of behavior helping to identify any issues that need to be considered when dealing with a particular customer.

Accurate and consistent recordkeeping has been particularly useful this year. The pandemic caused many consumers’ situations to change almost overnight. Those who may not have had any specific needs or requirements are now in a completely different situation. This is crucial for businesses to understand and record so they can tailor responses and behavior accordingly, looking at past and present interactions to provide a fair service representative of changing circumstances.

How can businesses ensure it’s used once information is logged? A comprehensive picture of a customer’s specific needs isn’t useful unless it’s put to good use.

Using data to inform all interactions is key. The right complaints management system puts necessary workflows in place to ensure certain measures are adhered to. Some customers may need written correspondence communicated to them verbally as well or others may require a larger font size. Some consumers may be eligible for payment breaks or additional financial support, while others could require the help of a specialist department to deal with their current situation. By embedding policies and key considerations into organizational frameworks and case management lifecycles, it keeps the issue of fair treatment at the forefront at all times.

Mistakes can still be made and customers still slip through the net, even with robust training and tools. Firms need to put in place relevant checks to ensure procedures are being followed to enable the fair treatment of all customers, no matter how complex their needs. Using QA in conjunction with customer feedback to develop and improve best practice helps to raise standards by applying sound principles to every customer interaction, not just those who require additional help.

This isn’t a massive departure from existing processes, with many firms already striving to nurture a culture focussed on customer care. But instilling it as best practice is key. Businesses can continually improve processes by making full use of the tools available to successfully harness the huge amounts of daily data they’re collecting. It’s only by accurately identifying customer needs and responding accordingly that businesses can deliver the appropriate levels of care, treating customers fairly and providing an appropriate, personalized response every time.

Jack Jones
Product Manager
Aptean Respond