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Helping vulnerable customers with tech

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/violetkaipa)

In the blink of an eye, technology has changed the way we live. How we socialise, shop, learn and are entertained has changed dramatically.  Even Millennials have experienced these huge changes in spite of having grown up in a world of “always-on” technology.

As consumers, our lives have never been easier and more connected. As businesses, the technology at our fingertips enables us to advance services in a way as we have never been able to before. Businesses are now looking at how technology can help make a positive difference and impact on some of our most vulnerable customers. We are now more aware of the daily struggles those with physical and mental health problems face, and it is vital that we do what we can to ensure the inclusivity of these customers within the services we provide. In the UK alone:

There are over 11 million people (30 per cent of the population), living with a mental or physical disability;

Around 850,000 people with dementia and;

1 in 4 people in the UK is set to experience a mental health problem this year.

With the number of vulnerable customers on the rise, it is vital that service providers look at their current offerings to see how they can identify, improve and add safeguards to services.

Identifying vulnerable customers

Vulnerability comes in many forms, and vulnerable customers are not a single, uniform group.  There are countless factors that can enter an individual into the ‘vulnerable’ category.  Ofcom defines a vulnerable customer as someone whose ability to participate in communications markets and society is affected by factors such as their age, disability, income or geographical location. It is important to remember that vulnerability can be temporary due to life events such as bereavement, illness or trauma.

Identifying vulnerable customers can be difficult. There are certain customers who can be identified more easily, as physical disabilities and age are qualifying data when you sign up customers. It’s more difficult, however, to identify customers who have mental health issues or who experience temporary factors that would put them in the ‘vulnerable’ customer category. This is why it is important to add regular check-in points to re-qualify your customers to see if there have been any changes to their circumstances which could make them more vulnerable.

Alleviating stress on the day of service

Once you have identified who your vulnerable customers are, you need to engage with them to see how as a service provider you can alleviate any stress that the appointment may have on them. This could include adding in extra reassurance steps that the appointment is taking place, or giving the customer more flexibility when it comes to cancelling the appointment.

Localz’ own research has found that on the day of service there is a huge impact on people’s mental wellbeing. In fact, 71 per cent of respondents cited physical and emotional disturbance around service appointments. This included the feeling of stress and anxiety in the lead up to the appointment. Disrupted sleep the night before was experienced by 11 per cent of those surveyed, and this anxiety didn’t stop: 7 per cent felt uncomfortable using their own toilet when the service appointment took place.

It is worrying to see the drastic impact these appointments can have on consumers, in particular when we look at vulnerable customers. It is vital that these stresses can be alleviated in particular for society’s most vulnerable. With 95 per cent of the UK’s households owning a mobile phone, there is an opportunity to utilise mobile communications to reassure vulnerable customers before, during and after a service appointment.

Confirm and reassure

With horror stories of fake technicians and tradespeople targeting vulnerable customers at home, it is no surprise that there are concerns. This is why multiple verification steps are vital. When crafting your day of service customer journey, there are extra steps to consider implementing to support vulnerable customers;

Enabling your online and mobile services to have the latest security applications like fingerprint and facial recognition will add an extra layer of security for your customers. This helps customers feel confident that you are doing everything you can to protect their safety and personal data online.

Send your customers multiple appointment reminders and confirmations online and via SMS. It’s important to add several touchpoints for your customers not only to reassure them the appointment is due to take place but also to give them the option to make changes or cancel their appointment.

Share a real-time tracking map so technicians can be tracked and located in real-time. At Localz, we’ve demonstrated how this makes customers feel more comfortable, secure and in control.

Send a picture of the technician, the vehicle registration and a unique code for verification so the customer knows who is coming to the door. This is vitally important for vulnerable people. Your primary goal should be to give customers the confidence to open the door and challenge the identity of the person standing on their doormat. The more transparent and frictionless you can make this process, the more your customers will trust that you have their best interests and their security at heart.

Let customers add an additional nominee for notification when they book their appointment. Sending additional appointment communication to a friend or family member can help customers feel like they’re not alone, that someone else knows what’s going on and can help if they need to. Additionally, for the family of a vulnerable person, this extra communication can be reassuring as they stay up to date with what’s going on.

For the most vulnerable and anxious, think about adding a call from a customer care agent during the appointment. Taking this extra step to check in with the customer and make sure all is going well will be appreciated by some of the most vulnerable in our community.

Every company has a duty of care to its customers and we can’t second guess the needs of those customers. As businesses, we need to ensure we have the right tools, processes and systems in place to identify, communicate to and manage the experience of all customers, with special focus on those who are more vulnerable. What one customer may find par for the course may cause another significant anxiety and distress.

Inviting strangers into your home can be a difficult time for all of us. Adding a few extra validation and identification steps into your day of service customer journey can help alleviate stress in a potentially difficult situation.

Emma Lampert, Global Head of Customer Success, Localz