Callcredit Blog

Best practice in working with vulnerable customers: Blog 1/4: How to identify a vulnerable customer

Credit Risk & Affordability

Over the last few years, there has been an increasing level of focus on the service provided to customers in vulnerable circumstances, with a view to improving customer experience and the longer term outcomes achieved.

In the first of a series of short blogs, aimed at helping organisations to improve identifying, supporting and assisting vulnerable customers, we take a look at how the FCA defines a vulnerable customer and how businesses are able to identify vulnerability.

The FCA describes “A vulnerable consumer is someone who, due to their personal circumstances, is especially susceptible to detriment, particularly when a firm is not acting with appropriate levels of care.”

Customers in vulnerable circumstances may be less likely to be able to manage their finances effectively, and much more likely to experience detriment due to financial abuse or fraud. It is critical that you handle relationships with sensitivity, understanding, and flexibility to support customers in working through difficult circumstances and to ensure that the situation is not worsened by your actions.

Organisations need to identify risk factors that may indicate vulnerability

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Customers may be reluctant or unwilling to disclose issues to your organisation so you need to be able to identify risk factors that may indicate vulnerability.

You can identify a vulnerable customer through:

  • engagement with front line advisors in branches/call centres.  Front line advisors should be appropriately trained to ensure customers are treated sensitively and with empathy. They should listen and use questioning techniques to discover and understand the customers’ circumstances.
  • written communication from the customer or a third party providing notification of an issue. letter, email, secure message, etc.
  • assessment of behavioural risk indicators.  This could include increasing value of credit card cash advances, reducing level of payments, frequent returned payments or informal overdrafts, etc.
  • notification by a third party such as friend/family member, debt advice provider/debt management company, solicitor, etc.

You may try to ensure that customers are not incorrectly identified as vulnerable, but it is important that your policy isn’t too rigid so as to miss customers requiring support. It is better to pass a customer to a specialised team where not required, than to risk worsening a situation by failing to identify a customer currently in a vulnerable position.

If you would like help in identifying and supporting vulnerable customers or have questions on any of what I have discussed please email me nick.myatt@callcreditgroup.com or feel free to leave a comment below.

Author: Nick Myatt

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