2020 has been a challenging year. For many organisations, the way things were done is no longer relevant. Customer’s needs have shifted and there is a growing number who are in a vulnerable position for the first time.
Why are an increasing number of people struggling to access and action the services that they need? I believe Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs model offers some insight.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Developed over a lifetime, Maslow’s Hierarchy model suggests that humans have to satisfy certain needs.
At the basic level, these are the Physiological needs for survival; water and food, shelter and warmth, sleep. As these needs are met, we instinctively start to strive for the next tier.
Safety and security form the next level. This focuses on reducing risk and includes good health, predictability, control over our environment, financial stability and freedom from fear. With sufficient protection in place, we develop a yearning to belong.
Belonging and love are achieved through building meaningful relationships with family, friends, work colleagues and neighbours. It is about caring and being cared for, discovering shared interests, developing mutual trust and collaboration. It is about realising that we can be stronger together.
A sense of belonging builds our self-esteem. With a sense of worth, we feel empowered to apply our skills, try new things and contribute. We gain a sense of accomplishment and value, which gives us the confidence and motivation to strive for more.
The final level is self-actualisation; the point at which we are using our skills and creativity, and successfully collaborating, so we can operate at our full potential – hopefully benefitting others along the way. Maslow identified that this was not a permanent position, but something that is experienced in peak moments of joy and satisfaction.
The Impact of Covid-19 on Vulnerability
Whilst many of us have been resilient and have adapted to new ways of working and living, Covid-19 has impacted on the physiological, safety and social needs, including:
If customers are focused on whether they might eat today, their capacity to complete an organisation’s new online process will be limited. If a lack of income threatens their ability to pay the rent, another bill may not be their top priority. If they are in fear of the harm they may face at home, they will be unable to process the information staff are sharing with them.
Consideration and Collaboration
I fully understand that businesses and employees may also be suffering the impact of Covid-19. Customers are required to pay their bills and abide by their contracts for businesses to stay afloat. My suggestion is to adopt a flexible approach.
The way to achieve business goals, whilst supporting vulnerable customers is through consideration and collaboration. Put in place the resources to enable meaningful conversations with customers. This will help better understand their situation. Where vulnerability is identified consider what can be offered that will be of mutual benefit.
These could include:
Maintaining a Resilient Team
The pandemic will have impacted employees, as well as customers. Social isolation, job insecurity and responsibility for others can knock their confidence, productivity and motivation. Regular communication, support and praise will build their resilience. They will then be better able to serve vulnerable customers with care and respect.