In the third of a series of short blogs, aimed at helping organisations to improve identifying, supporting and assisting vulnerable customers, we take a look at how you can provide your employees with the right tools to communicate effectively.
Top training tips:
- Front line employees must be comfortable and confident in engaging with potentially vulnerable customers
Regular training on your policy and procedures in handling potentially vulnerable customers is key.
Front line employees should know when and how to pass customers over to internal specialist support teams, and have an understanding of the regulatory framework which govern these interactions. Discover more in our previous blog: How to support vulnerable customers
- Focus on developing and enhancing their listening and questioning skills
Customers in vulnerable circumstances are often reluctant to pro-actively disclose details of their circumstances, due to the highly personal and sensitive nature of the issues. Effective listening and questioning skills are important to enable potential issues to be detected and explored, whilst providing reassurance and support to the customer. These skills should be combined with use of a structured assessment framework to encourage disclosure, to ensure next steps are clear, and to accurately capture information gathered.
- Create a culture of sensitivity and empathy when speaking with potentially vulnerable customers
In addition to ensuring an appropriate level of training is undertaken, it is equally important that there is a culture of sensitivity and empathy in dealing with customers potentially in vulnerable circumstances. This will help to facilitate a more positive customer experience, and will be more likely to result in a positive outcome.
Supporting your specialist team working with vulnerable customers:
- Specialised teams handling vulnerable customers should be free from targets relating to call handling time
By not having targets this will provide employees with the flexibility to engage in detailed discussions as appropriate to the customer circumstances.
- Make aware the range of options available to support customers and review cases
Your specialist team should be empowered to action the support options available. E.g. interest rates, waiving of fees/charges/interest accrued, consolidation of debt, etc.
Regular reviews of cases should also take place so your organisation is aware of any further changes to customer circumstances. This will help further identify appropriate actions and support required response to an improvement or further deterioration in circumstances.
- Provide ongoing focus on staff wellbeing
Due to the nature of discussions that can take place this may potentially have an impact on employees, and so organisations should provide regular one to one discussions with line managers. Best practice is to provide a support framework for specialist staff, from allowing the flexibility for individuals to take a ‘time out’ after a difficult discussion, to offering support and counselling where required, to enabling staff to easily move to other roles within the business if the employee no longer wishes to work within such an emotionally challenging, high pressure area.
Group discussion should also be encouraged to enable knowledge sharing and identification of areas of potential improvement.
These are just some of the top level areas of recommendation you could implement, if you would like more detail on any of the above or to discuss further recommendations please email me firstname.lastname@example.org or feel free to leave a comment below.
Author: Nick Myatt