Complying with the FCA Guidelines on the fair treatment of vulnerable customers is not a quick tick box exercise. It depends on developing an inclusive work culture where every customer is valued. For some organisations, this requires a fresh approach, so how can this be achieved?
Start with an Inclusive Team
The human brain is drawn to the familiar; it is one of the many ways of filtering the mass of information that needs to be processed. Whilst this can be useful in some scenarios, it can also drive unconscious bias.
In job interviews, the recruitment team are more likely to select people with a degree of familiarity. The result is that few workplaces are filled with a representative team. Just think for a moment…how many people in your organisation are of a different culture, generation or educational background from the boss? Do you have disabled colleagues? Is part-time work an option?
It is difficult to understand a range of customer perspectives and needs if your team is largely formed from a similar mould. What’s more, it is difficult for customers to connect if they see no one like them in the organisation. Attracting talent from more diverse backgrounds is, therefore, at the heart of building an inclusive work culture.
The Ideal Candidate
The ideal candidate may look different to you, sound different to you and think differently. They may have gained their skills and capabilities through non-academic routes. They may not be able to work 9.00 – 5.30 or may need some adaptive equipment. They might respond in ways that you weren’t expecting and challenge your perceptions.
Initially, this may feel uncomfortable. You might fear that they may rock the boat or not fit in with the team. You might think that if you make adjustments for one, then everyone will expect the same treatment. There are many ways to justify sticking to the familiar, but this thought process can mean that you miss out on the ideal candidate.
By stepping out of your comfort zone, you can attract a greater range of skills, expertise and creativity. You don’t need more of the same, you need to fill the gaps and build a well-rounded team.
Seeking Insight from a Wide Range of Employees
If you do have a broad range of ages, races, skills and experience in your team, do you make good use of this valuable resource? Consider how often you actively seek their thoughts and ideas.
Having a diverse team isn’t enough unless you open up the opportunity to learn from different experiences and views. These can be a positive way to challenge established processes and to dig deeper into understanding the barriers that prevent people from doing business with you. When genuinely open to and engaged in fresh thinking, the organisation can more easily see and develop new approaches.
By involving employees in plans and trials before new products or services are launched, you have a first-level focus group. Ask them about the experience. Was it easy or did they hit any issues? Can they see any potential barriers that could prevent customers from reaching the desired outcome? These activities take people away from their desks, yet they are the perfect way to gather valuable insight that increases the chance of getting things right.
Connecting with the Customer
So going back to the earlier point about being drawn to the familiar. Imagine the difference when customers visit your premises and see people that are more like them. Or hear a familiar dialect on a telephone call.
What’s more, as you have gained insight from the team, they might also notice that you offer information in large print or translation services. They see an entrance ramp, as well as someone to help if they don’t feel confident with the digital process. These measures make them feel that they are welcomed and valued as customers.
Prioritising Diversity & Inclusion
In summary, prioritising internal diversity and engagement offers the opportunity for your team to learn from each other and understand different perspectives. This helps everyone to become better at understanding clients’ experiences and needs, which promotes the fair treatment of vulnerable customers.