Top 5 Agent Tips for Supporting Vulnerable Customers

Best Practice Tips for Supporting Vulnerable Customers

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Top 5 Agent Tips for Supporting Vulnerable Customers - CX Today News
Contact CentreInsights

Published: May 29, 2024

Rebekah Carter

The world we live in today is plagued with difficulties, from economic uncertainty to political unrest.  

It’s little wonder that the number of vulnerable customers contact center agents are dealing with each day is increasing. In fact, a report from the FCA found in 2022, around 47% of customers showed one or more characteristics of vulnerability.  

To stay compliant with the latest customer care guidelines, and deliver exceptional experiences, agents need to know how to support vulnerable customers effectively. This means not only understanding how to identify vulnerability in a customer, but also knowing how to guide them through a conversation as painlessly as possible. 

“Supporting vulnerable customers is about fostering genuine connections. A proactive and empathetic approach not only enhances customer satisfaction but also solidifies an organisation’s reputation as a compassionate and trustworthy service provider.” – Jo Sverre Lindem – Chief Customer Officer, Puzzel

Today, we’re sharing our five top tips for supporting and delighting vulnerable customers in the contact center.  

1. Learn How to Identify Vulnerable Customers 

The first step in supporting vulnerable customers is understanding how to identify the signs of vulnerability. In the past, vulnerable customers often included elderly people, those with physical or mental impairments, and people with long-term or chronic illnesses.  

Today, however, authorities like the FCA have updated the definition of “vulnerability” in policies like the “Consumer Duty” guidelines. Now, vulnerable customers can include everyone from people with addictions, to individuals who are struggling financially.  

Familiarizing yourself with documents like the “Consumer Duty” guidelines should help you to rapidly detect when a customer shows signs of risk. However, it can also help to leverage resources, like AI tools, that can help categorize vulnerable customers.  

For instance, the Puzzel Case Management solution can automatically detect the tone and language in messages, helping to pinpoint, low, mid, and high-priority consumers.  

2. Demonstrate Empathy  

Supporting vulnerable customers requires agents to demonstrate a high level of emotional intelligence and empathy. Notably, empathy is crucial in every contact center interaction, as it helps companies build stronger relationships with their consumers. However, with vulnerable customers, it’s particularly important to deliver a compassionate, human experience.  

To demonstrate empathy: 

  • Show patience: Don’t try to rush through a call with a vulnerable customer. Take your time, and be willing to repeat yourself, or explain concepts in greater depth when necessary. Check in with your customer and make sure they understand exactly what you’re saying.  
  • Practice active listening: Show your customers that you’re paying attention to them with active listening techniques. Repeat what a customer says back to them for clarification, ask follow-up questions, and summarize critical points when necessary.  
  • Speak clearly: Avoid following call scripts that use jargon or complex language. Use simple, straightforward language when communicating with your customer, and enunciate without being patronizing. 

3. Be Ready to Adapt to Their Needs 

An excellent way to reassure vulnerable clients and ensure they have an excellent experience with your company, is to be adaptable. When you start a call or conversation with a vulnerable customer, set expectations for what the discussion will involve, and ask them if they have any initial questions or concerns.  

Ask your customers whether they need assistance during the conversation from an interpreter, relative, or carer. If they seem uncomfortable speaking on the phone, ask them whether they’d like to move the conversation to a messaging app instead.  

If your customer is unable to continue with a conversation, ask them whether they’d like to arrange a callback, and take notes so you can pass them on to the next agent. Regularly ask your customer whether they need clarification on anything as you move through the conversation, and make sure you follow up with a summary of the call via text or email.  

4. Leverage Sentiment Analysis 

Sentiment analysis solutions are incredibly useful when dealing with any contact center interaction. They can ensure you can monitor the feelings of your customer, as you progress through a conversation. Even if you don’t recognize a shift in a customer’s tone of voice, your sentiment analysis solution will inform you if the conversation is going in negative direction.  

By identifying negative sentiment early, you can take proactive steps to protect your customer from any emotional distress. This not only improves the customer experience, and helps to ensure you stay compliant with regulatory guidelines, it can also reduce the risk of customer churn.  

Some sentiment analysis solutions can also proactively notify supervisors and managers when a conversation with a customer moves in a bad direction, so they can step in and offer assistance.  

5. Take Advantage of Generative AI 

Finally, leveraging the support of AI solutions is an excellent way to optimize your interactions with vulnerable customers. A generative and conversational AI assistant, like Puzzel’s Agent Assist tool, can consistently analyze the interactions between yourself and a customer, identifying both sentiment, and relevant keywords used in the discussion. 

Using this information, as well as historical data and insights from your company’s database, the assistant can provide personalized recommendations on how to move forward with a conversation. It can offer advice on what to say, and even recommend next best actions, like following up with a customer after a call with an email summary.  

Some AI solutions can even answer complex questions on your behalf during a message-based discussion, rapidly generating responses based on large volumes of data.  

Master the Art of Supporting Vulnerable Customers 

Knowing how to support vulnerable customers is crucial in today’s world. The number of customers classed as “vulnerable” is increasing, and regulatory bodies are consistently updating their guidelines to ensure companies deliver the right quality of support.  

The five tips above, combined with regular training from your business leaders, should ensure you can delight and retain customers, no matter their vulnerability status.  

Agent AssistCCaaSNatural Language UnderstandingSentiment AnalysisUser ExperienceWorkforce Management

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