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Responsibility stories
7 March 2018

Supporting vulnerable customers

As a business, we provide customer management services and solutions on behalf of many clients in different industries. And working with vulnerable customers – and customers in vulnerable circumstances – is part of the job.

We work to ensure the fair treatment of customers and the continuous improvement of customer outcomes. And, more specifically, we have a ‘Treatment of Vulnerable Customers Policy’ and a number of operational procedures associated with it. We:

  • engage with industry bodies such as FCA and CSA – understanding how our peers are managing this challenge
  • attend relevant events and roundtables to broaden our knowledge
  • established links with Debt Advice Line and the Step Change Debt Charity to get their direct feedback about front line issues
  • listen to our clients to understand their priorities and expectations and…
  • …listen to their customers – treating customers as individuals is key – each customer can view their own circumstance differently.

We train our customer agents in dealing with people in vulnerable circumstances

Helping frontline staff to recognise that a person needs support, and to have confidence in their responses during difficult or distressing conversations, requires specific training.

We’re working with different parts of our organisation to provide this training to our employees who deal with vulnerable customers in their day-to-day roles. In fact, employees are encouraged to refer to ‘vulnerable circumstances’ instead, taking away the label of ‘vulnerable customers’ and reminding us that such circumstances can happen to anyone. With particular client contracts we have also worked with the Samaritans, to provide face-to-face training.

Just recently I was talking to a customer and she started to cry and I asked if she was OK. She said she was suffering severe depression and had obtrusive OCD thoughts that she would harm someone. I remembered the training and asked her how she was feeling right now and she said she didn't want to live anymore and was frightened. I basically just listened to her and explained I had a duty of care. I then asked her if she felt suicidal at that moment to which she replied ‘yes’. I asked if she had support from any professional team, as she had begged me not to call the police. She gave me the number of the crisis team which were working with her, I rang them and explained who I was. I waited and kept her talking until the team arrived and tried to reassure her she will feel better in time, she thanked me and said I had been brilliant because I had an understanding of how she was feeling.

TVL Field Worker (CLARIFY)

CLARIFY

We also have specialist teams who can provide customers with a specific point of contact and liaise with external partners such as the Money Advice Trust or Step Change Debt Charity to ensure the customer is informed about the potential help available to them.

And, as part of our partnership with Alzheimer’s Society, we’re going further to do what we can to communicate effectively and create greater understanding of the condition, including encouraging our employees to become ‘Dementia Friends’ – a programme to transform the way the nation thinks, acts and talks about the condition. Also, for those employees who work directly with customers, the Society has held sessions on call handling, including how to recognise signs of dementia, the world from the perspective of the person with dementia and how to best handle a call with a customer that has dementia.

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