7 Tips for Handling Vulnerable Customers in the Contact Center

Tips for delighting and supporting vulnerable customers

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7 Tips for Handling Vulnerable Customers in the Contact Center - CX Today
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Published: May 3, 2024

Rebekah Carter

Delivering an exceptional customer experience is essential in today’s world, no matter which industry you serve. However, there’s more to delivering a great experience than simply responding to queries quickly, or serving customers on the right channels.  

In today’s world, where high unemployment levels and economic uncertainty is pushing customers into difficult positions, organizations need a strategy for handling their more “vulnerable” consumers. Ensuring your agents know how to demonstrate empathy and compassion, and follow the right beset practices for vulnerable client management, is critical to business growth.  

In fact, according to Gartner, businesses that demonstrate empathy significantly outperform their competitors in terms of profit and sales.  

Here are our top tips for handling vulnerable customers in 2024.  

“Today’s economic landscape places unique pressures on consumers, making it more crucial than ever to approach each interaction with empathy and understanding. Investing in training programs and new technologies can help ensure contact centres and their agents are equipped to identify, prioritise, and support vulnerable customers” Says Jo Sverre Lindem – Chief Customer Officer, Puzzel   

1. Know How to Identify Vulnerable Customers 

Identifying vulnerable customers can be tricky, as the definition of vulnerability is constantly evolving. For instance, the FCA recently updated its definition of a vulnerable customer. Alongside commonly known groups, like the elderly and those with certain health conditions, the vulnerable definition now also applies to people with low financial resilience, addictions, and more.  

One way to identify vulnerable customers before they reach a contact center agent, is with an intelligent interactive voice response journey. AI-driven solutions can analyze customer sentiment, and pinpoint keywords in a request to determine which customers may be defined as “vulnerable”, and how they should be routed to agents in the contact center.  

2. Upgrade your Agent Training Strategy

Regularly training employees is crucial in the contact center. It’s how you ensure your team members can make the most of the latest tools, and preserve high levels of productivity. However, when dealing with vulnerable customers, agents need a specific type of training, focused on developing empathy and emotional intelligence. Show your agents how to: 

  • Practice active listening techniques: Such as repeating the question back to your customer to ensure they’ve heard it correctly.  
  • Adapt their language: Teach agents to use simple, straightforward (but not patronizing) language, to reduce the risk of misunderstandings.  
  • Set expectations for the call: Offer vulnerable customers insights into what the call or interaction will entail, and what information you’ll need from them.  

3. Embrace AI-Powered Case Management Tools

Addressing the concerns of a vulnerable customer may take more than a single interaction. Case management solutions make it easy to ensure you’re following up with a customer at the right times, and delivering a consistent experience. Solutions like Puzzel’s Case Management offering improves customer experiences by allowing them to track the status of requests, reducing stress.  

At the same time, the solution leverages ChatGPT (generative AI) technology, to detect the tone and language in customer messages. This helps to identify each interaction as low, medium, or high priority, so it can be routed to the right team member. Plus, the solution’s AI tools can deliver recommended automated responses and drafted answers to agents, to save them time and effort. 

4. Invest in Sentiment Analysis

In today’s digital landscape, where many customer interactions occur through social media, chatbots, and similar channels, it can be difficult to maintain insights into customer vulnerability. Sentiment analysis helps to address this problem, by giving agents and supervisors a clear view of how a customer is feeling when they initiate a conversation, and how their emotions change.  

Intelligent sentiment analysis tools can even assist agents in identifying instances of “negative sentiment” early, so they can take proactive steps to protect a vulnerable customer from distress. For instance, Puzzel’s “Agent Assist” tool can track sentiment analysis throughout a conversation, and provide agents with immediate, personalized recommendations on how to proceed with a call. 

5. Implement Intelligent Chatbots 

Guidelines for dealing with vulnerable customers, such as the “Consumer Duty” policy created by the FCA, require companies to ensure all customers don’t have any barriers to seeking support. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to achieve this with a limited team of human employees.  

Intelligent bots, equipped with natural language understanding technologies, can give you an opportunity to serve and support customers 24/7. They also help companies in other ways. For instance, a smart chatbot can pre-process customer queries, determine which agent to route them to, and deliver contextual insights to your customer service reps.  

6. Monitor Quality Assurance and Compliance

To ensure you’re adhering to the latest industry requirements and standards for supporting vulnerable customers, you need a comprehensive strategy for monitoring every interaction. Quality assurance tools will help you to identify conversations that require attention based on performance data, customer feedback, and text analytics.  

These resources can help you identify potential problems vulnerable customers face when dealing with your customer service team, and uncover opportunities for improvement. At the same time, the right monitoring tools can help you to ensure you’re adhering to compliance requirements, by ensuring agents are following policies and procedures for handling vulnerable clients.  

7. Collect Customer Feedback

While data-driven quality assurance and reporting tools can give you valuable insights into the interactions your teams are having with vulnerable customers, nothing is more powerful than the voice of the customer yourself. Creating surveys you can use to gather feedback from vulnerable clients gives you more holistic insights into which issues need to be addressed.  

The right surveying solutions will help you to quickly visualize trends and opportunities in your customer service strategy, and optimize your team’s performance.  

8. Empower Agents with the Right Technology

Finally, we’ve already looked at some of the ways technology can help agents handle vulnerable customers. However, there are various other ways leveraging the right technology can give your business an edge. For instance, the Puzzel Agent Assist solution, integrated with the Puzzel Knowledgebase, can help agents access crucial insights quickly, speeding up the time to resolution for a vulnerable customer.  

AI-driven solutions can even help agents to segment their “vulnerable customers” into a specific group, so they can prevent them from receiving potentially distressing automated marketing messages or sales pitches, improving compliance.  

Protect and Delight your Vulnerable Customers 

“In modern contact centres, agents are not just processing transactions; they’re extending a lifeline of understanding and support to vulnerable customers.” – Scott Maryan – Director of Customer Adoption, Puzzel

The complex world we live in today has led to an increase in the number of “vulnerable customers” agents and businesses need to handle every day. Ensuring you have the right strategies in place for protecting, supporting, and empowering vulnerable customers is essential to success.  

Not only will the right strategy ensure you can stay compliant with the latest regulatory guidelines in the contact center, but it will improve the relationships you have with crucial clients. The better you serve your vulnerable customers, the better your business reputation will be.  

CCaaSSentiment AnalysisWorkforce Optimization

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