As a vulnerable customer consultant, I help regulated companies to achieve and evidence compliance with the Financial Conduct Authority’s vulnerable customer guidance.
When measures to ensure the fair treatment of vulnerable customers are in place, businesses can avoid substantial fines and other enforcement actions. More importantly, they can consistently provide a positive customer experience for all.
Fortunately, the majority of companies that are using my consultancy service are driven by the desire to do the best for customers. They recognise there is scope for improvement and want to equip their team with knowledge, resources, and support. With greater understanding, clear policies, and practical tips, helping vulnerable customers is not daunting.
As a vulnerable customer consultant, my approach is to work collaboratively with senior leaders and tailor my services to fit the organisation.
Four Steps to Compliance
The FCA Guidance is a lengthy document, however, there are 4 steps to compliance:
Understanding the needs of customers facing vulnerable circumstances
Equipping staff with the necessary skills and capability to recognise and respond to those needs
Considering those needs when designing products, communications, and flexible customer service provision
Monitoring and assessing progress to inform continuous development
Customer Needs and Company Purpose
When working with companies in the early phases of this process, my insight helps them to explore the vulnerable circumstances faced by their customers. We consider the drivers of vulnerability and consider how barriers can be removed to help individuals access services and products. We cement the organisation’s purpose, objectives and mission concerning those vulnerable customers.
Embedding Good Practice
I consult with organisations that are ready to embed good practice. They have identified needs and now need policies, training, and resources to make their plans a reality.
My work can include reviewing existing company policies, processes, and practices against the FCA guidance. Most companies already have a good customer service framework in place, so we develop these to address gaps. I also provide a range of training and development opportunities for all employees.
A couple of firms are setting up specialist vulnerable customer teams. In these cases, I advise on recruiting staff with appropriate skills and attitudes, training and development opportunities and developing external support networks.
Products, Communication and Service Provision
Fully comprehending the needs of customers is a challenge. I offer strategies to gather insight and opinion from customers in vulnerable circumstances, including focus groups, mystery shoppers and liaison with relevant local or national charities.
Monitoring and Evaluating Progress
When implementing new policies, processes, and products, it is important to set up measurable goals. My consultancy services help identify priorities and set realistic targets around tangible issues such as customer retention, customer complaints, company reputation and market share.
When evaluating, these benchmarks can be used to monitor and review the impact of measures from both the company and customer perspective. My services support the collation of data and how to use this insight to inform continuous improvements.
Consulting on the Fair Treatment of Vulnerable Customers
Complying with the FCA guidance is not a tick box exercise. I am committed to shifting attitudes and social responsibility.
The fair treatment of vulnerable customers depends on many factors including:
Having a genuine interest in understanding customers’ needs, with a focus on what the company can do to help, rather than the cause of the vulnerability.
Developing a caring company culture where customer-facing staff and line managers are approachable, positive, and helpful.
Providing employees with sufficient training, support, and resources to enable them to feel confident in supporting vulnerable customers to achieve the best outcomes.
Considering all customers when designing new products, services, and processes; what alternatives are available to those who cannot access the standard offer?
Being committed to seeking out and learning from feedback
Time to Review and Refresh
The FCA are increasing proactive regulation and enforcement activity and are issuing tough action to protect consumers. They have advised all financial institutions to:
“Review and refresh the suitability of products offered”
That is a good place to start for any business that values its customers, employees, and reputation.
To discuss how my Vulnerable Customer Consultancy Services could support your organisation, please get in touch.