How to Identify and Support Vulnerable Customers

Improving Compliance and Empathy in the Contact Center

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How to Identify and Support Vulnerable Customers - CX Today
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Published: May 8, 2024

Rebekah Carter

Vulnerable customers are nothing new to the average contact center leader. In every industry, from finance, to healthcare, there are potential clients that require a higher standard of care.  

However, in recent years, the number of “vulnerable” customers interacting with companies in virtually every industry has grown. Issues like the complex employment landscape, economic uncertainty, and growing issues with mental health have lead to an influx in vulnerability.  

As a result, regulatory bodies are holding organizations to higher standards, pushing them to adhere to guidelines that protect an increasingly vulnerable community. Here’s how your organization can identify and support vulnerable customers in 2024.  

“In this era of unprecedented challenges, the ability to empathise with and support vulnerable customers defines organisational success in the contact centre industry. Recognising and supporting these customers is not just a regulatory requirement—it’s a moral imperative.” – Jo Severre Lindem – Chief Customer Officer, Puzzel

Identifying vulnerable customers 

The first step in supporting vulnerable customers, is learning how to identify them. This is more complex than it seems. As the definition of “vulnerability” can vary from one industry to the next. In many instances, vulnerable customers might be defined as people who are chronically ill, elderly, unemployed, or impaired in some way (physically or mentally).  

However, the FCA recently broadened its definition of vulnerable customers, with the publication of the “Consumer Duty” policy. Here, the FCA suggests vulnerable customers can include anyone from people with addictions, to those with low financial resilience.  

To ensure you’re delivering the right level of care to vulnerable customers, you’ll need systems in place that allow you to collect relevant data about your audience. AI-driven systems such as chatbots and voice assistants, can leverage natural language understanding and other techniques to help identify the most “at risk” customers in your list.  

They can evaluate both historical information and real-time insights based on the language and tone a customer uses when communicating with an agent, to determine their level of vulnerability. This can give companies an excellent way to rapidly detect vulnerable customers, and ensure they’re routed to the right agents to solve their issues. 

Supporting Vulnerable Customers: 3 Steps to Success 

Once you have a strategy in place for identifying vulnerable customers, the next step is developing a plan to serve these customers empathetically, and compliantly. While the methods you use to support at risk customers may vary depending on your industry, there are three crucial steps every business should consider: 

Step 1: Training your Team Members 

Consistent training should always be a priority for contact center leaders. One study even found that companies that prioritize comprehensive training programs achieve an up to 34% increase in customer satisfaction rates. Effective training programs ensure your agents can efficiently serve and support customers on any channel they choose, and deliver quick resolutions to problems.  

The right training initiatives will also equip agents with the soft skills they need to support vulnerable customers. Focusing your training sessions on things like empathy and emotional intelligence ensures your agents are equipped to show human compassion during every interaction.  

You can train your team members on everything from active listening techniques, to conflict resolution methods, and even communication strategies. You could even use training initiatives to help agents identify vulnerable customers, with or without the help of AI.  

Step 2: Leverage Artificial Intelligence 

It’s easy to assume that artificial intelligence would have a negative impact on your strategy to show empathy and compassion to vulnerable customers. However, that’s only the case when AI removes human beings from the equation. Used as a way to augment your team, AI can make supporting “at risk” customers a lot easier. It can: 

  • Deliver insights into sentiment: Sentiment analysis solutions can track the emotions and feelings of a customer throughout a conversation or journey. With solutions like Puzzel’s Agent Assist technology, these insights can be used to deliver next-best action recommendations and suggestions to agents handling vulnerable customers.  
  • Enhance case management: AI-powered case management solutions can leverage generative AI technology and sentiment analysis at once. They can identify the priority of a conversation, and determine how discussions and tickets should be routed to team members. They can even offer recommended suggestions on how to respond to requests.  
  • Improve access to support: Intelligent bots can help businesses deliver consistent 24/7 care to vulnerable customers. They can pre-process customer queries, troubleshoot and address customer issues in moments, and even determine how to route escalated discussions.  

AI tools can also save your team members time on repetitive tasks, ensuring they have more opportunities to focus on delivering an empathetic and personalized experience to customers.  

Step 3: Respond to Insights and Feedback 

Finally, to ensure you’re adhering to the regulations surrounding the support of vulnerable customers, and building stronger relationships with your audience, you need the right insights. CX tools for things like quality assurance, and performance metric tracking will help you to identify potential issues in your current strategies, and opportunities for growth.  

The right analytical and monitoring tools will assist you in developing data-driven strategies for enhanced customer support, and can even reduce your risk of falling victim to compliance issues. For instance, you can monitor whether agents are following policies and best-practice scripts when dealing with an “at-risk” customer.  

Companies can build on the insights they gather from their reporting tools even further, by leveraging customer surveys to collect direct feedback from their audience. Automatically sending surveys to customers at the end of an interaction can give you a more holistic view of the factors that affect customer satisfaction scores and loyalty.  

Make Sure You’re Protecting your Vulnerable Customers 

Vulnerable customers aren’t just an audience segment that financial companies and healthcare brands need to be aware of anymore. The current landscape is filled with consumers who may experience some level of “vulnerability”. This makes it more important than ever for companies to ensure they have the right strategy in place to deliver empathetic support to all clients.  

Learning how to identify vulnerable customers, then implementing training strategies, technology, and analytical tools will ensure you can adapt to the latest regulatory guidelines in the contact center landscape. Plus, it ensures you’ll be able to build and maintain the best possible relationships with your target audience.  

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