COVID-19: Are Businesses Supporting Vulnerable Customers?

Christine Horton

NICE Enlighten AI helps businesses respond to a spike in vulnerable customers

NICE Strategy
COVID-19: Are Businesses Supporting Vulnerable Customers?

The way in which companies treat their customers during times of upheaval has never been more important, or relevantBusinesses that fail to demonstrate empathy and compassion for their customers in times of crisis risk long-term damage to their brand. 

But more importantly, corporations now need to go a step further to ensure that vulnerable customers are protectedsays Jonathan Wax, Vice President EMEA, NICE Nexidia. 

“During the pandemic, there was a huge spike in vulnerable customers,” he says, pointing to research by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCS) which shows that more consumers find themselves in vulnerable circumstances due to the pandemic. Fifty-three percent of adults today display a characteristic of vulnerability – an increase of more than three million between February and October 2020. 

The FCA issued guidance last year to help firms ensure they are treating vulnerable customers fairly. The organisation said the vulnerability could be due to health reasons such as cognitive impairment, or life events such as new caring responsibilities. Or they may struggle with resiliency – they have a low ability to withstand financial and emotional shock, or have low capabilities, such as poor literacy or numeracy skills. 

Based on those classifications, companies need to handle those customers differently, says Wax. 

NICE Enlighten AI

However, organisations can struggle to define and identify who is a vulnerable customer. It is not always apparent during an interaction between customers and front-line staff. 

“When people call in, they don’t necessarily identify themselves as vulnerable, but the onus is on the company to uncover that during their conversationIf they are calling regarding late payment, for example, it is the company’s responsibility to determine the reason why it is late,” says Wax. 

Contact centres rely on their agents to identify vulnerable customers based on the training they have received, but this is subject to error. Similarly, traditional analytics are often ineffective as the clues – spoken words and phrases – can be incredibly subtle. 

To help businesses support customers and ensure FCA compliance, NICE has developed Enlighten AI for Vulnerable Customers, an AI-based solution that can identify vulnerable customers on every voice and digital interaction. 

“Our models are based on millions and millions of interactions – the solution can pick up on patterns that humans just cant decipher. So that is really important when it comes to understanding what AI can really do in the contact centre,” says Wax. 

NICE says the solution gives front-line staff at contact centrethe visibility and guidance to respond to vulnerable customers. This includes an option for real-time recommendations to give advisors immediate feedback on how to steer customer conversations. For example, advisors can be alerted that a customer is classified as vulnerable and prompted to transfer the customer to a specialist who can help. 

Enlighten AI also scores advisor behaviours that directly impact the vulnerable customer, such as active listening, demonstrating empathy and effective questioning. 

NICE says the solution enables companies to turn customers into lifelong advocates by delivering exceptional care in a time of need. They are likely to be repaid in customer loyalty and business growth beyond the pandemic. 



Join our Weekly Newsletter