Rising fuel costs, energy price increases, food costs soaring, inflation, increased interest rates…. the list of goes on. The result? The volume of vulnerability is growing fast.

How businesses respond is not always straightforward; particularly when the regulatory space is ‘busy’ and interpreting guidance to comply with regulation is not always an easy path to navigate.

Businesses in the CCA network met recently to explore the specific issues they are facing describing a definite increase in financial hardship from customers, some instances as a direct consequence of the pandemic, and some due to current economic and social changes.

Not all vulnerabilities are as obvious as financial hardship. Some can be due to low digital skills, mental health, Alzheimer’s, Dementia and also neurodiversity, but all are working hard to understand how best to serve people who need information presented to them differently.

The ongoing challenge of identifying vulnerability in digital spaces continues but some smart uses of tech are beginning to emerge (where chatbots can flag keywords for example) directing that customer to a dedicated support team. Social platforms too are offering another way for vulnerability to be identified, always with the aim of providing specialist assistance to best respond.

Contextualising the vulnerability is critical to understand the route to a positive outcome for all. Does it mean the customer can’t pay or needs to delay payment? Is the business being responsible in what it ‘sells’ to the customer and not exacerbating their financial burden? Do they need directed to specialist support like the Samaritans or other critical partners?

It’s often a double-whammy too. Those there to assist customers in vulnerable situations can feel they are looking in a mirror, dealing with the same problems and financial difficulties as the customers reaching out to them for help. What support needs to be in place to safeguard team members dealing with these calls? A responsibility of care is paramount, particularly if these are conversations taking place in a team member’s home.

With uncertainty and financial challenges likely to continue to grow, adapt and shift in the coming months and perhaps longer, organisations are working tirelessly to ensure they have fit for purpose processes in place, dedicated teams ready to help, and a perspective of empathy and understanding to do the right thing – both for customers and importantly the team members committed to helping.

Pauline Cochrane, Head of Research & Partnerships hosts the CCA Coffee Club every other Friday bringing together senior execs from all sectors to discuss, share, learn and explore the challenges being faced... over a cup of coffee, tea or refreshment of choice. If you'd like to know more or join the conversation please get in touch.