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Since the start of this pandemic, businesses have had to quickly pivot to meet customer and employee needs. Whether it is establishing an online presence, or enabling staff to work from home, businesses have had to adapt operations to meet the challenges of the ‘new normal’.

Despite the hurdles presented by this period, one factor that has remained constant is the need to treat customers – particularly vulnerable customers – fairly. In fact, the FCA has recently published new best practice guidance for firms urging them to do more to protect vulnerable customers. The guidance aims to provide a framework to allow all organisations to assess whether they are treating vulnerable customers fairly, ensuring consistency across sector.

In the battle for customer loyalty, being fair will always win
Fair treatment of vulnerable customers should always be a priority, but the rest of your customer base also wants to know that you have their best interests in mind. Indeed, recent research from CallMiner has found that customers want, and increasingly expect, to be treated fairly. The impact of emotion, particularly in a call centre environment, is profound and has a significant effect on a customer’s long-term relationship with a brand. This research found that where customers had had a bad experience when they called a contact centre, 74% moved their business to a competitor.

In the battle for loyalty, customers place a high importance on fair treatment. This isn’t just about requiring the same deals and promotions accessible to new customers, but is also about understanding the customer journey and recognising ‘in the moment’ triggers from a customer that signify they are not happy with an interaction and acting on it. This is a particularly vital practice when it comes to vulnerable customers who may exhibit more significant signs of distress with an agent – such as shortness of breath, anger or confusion.

Making it work
Organisations need to take a holistic view of the entire customer journey to understand the impact of each interaction at various touchpoints, whether speaking to vulnerable customers or not. Tools such as speech analytics can take some of the leg work out of this – enabling you to understand key themes within customers’ interactions and make changes accordingly.

In addition, greater training of staff on how to be empathetic towards customers will go a long way here. Train staff in contact centres to think about words and phrases that can be used to demonstrate empathy in response to a customer indicating dissatisfaction or distress in the case of a vulnerable customer. Conversational analytics can also help call centre teams analyse calls after the event so they can pick up on empathetic words used by agents and provide contact centre teams with an understanding of areas requiring future training.

What’s the endgame?
In the long run, treating all of your customers fairly is a worthwhile exercise. Not only is it the right thing to do by your customers, but it drives customer loyalty in the long-term. Here are our top five reasons why you should take the time to listen to all of your customers equally:

1. Customer experience is enhanced – dependably good interactions where customers are treated fairly makes them feel valued and respected when they do business with a company. Even if something goes wrong, if they feel the result is fair, they can still go away feeling that they have had a good experience interacting with your business. Remember that the biggest customer advocates are the ones that have had an issue that the customer contact centre has successfully addressed.

2. Long-term relationships are built – only consistent fair treatment will drive longevity with a customer relationship, and keep a customer coming back for more. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to focus purely on new customer wins – long-term gains come from looking at the customer lifetime value.

3. Employee experience and morale are improved – this definitely cannot be underplayed. Contact centre agents are vital to ensuring that your customers are treated fairly. If your agents feel fairly treated and have the right information, support and skills, then they can and will look after your customers better.

4. Customers feel confident in your culture and principles – if customers can rely on being fairly treated when dealing with your business, they will gain a level of trust in your brand or business that drives loyalty and repeat custom.

5. Vulnerable customers are handled appropriately – you shouldn’t do this just because it is what the regulator tells you to do. As this pandemic has shown us, customers can become vulnerable at any time and as such your actions as a company become more memorable in those instances. Act fairly to customers at all times, but take the correct and appropriate steps with vulnerable customers.

Loyalty is built up over time and it is only by taking a 360-degree view of the customer and their multiple interactions with a brand that you can get an appreciation of how to make meaningful changes that will positively impact that relationship. Investing in relationships long-term through listening to your customers, treating them fairly and being empathetic – particularly where vulnerable customers are concerned – will always hold value. Not only will it mitigate customer churn and increase loyalty, but ultimately, it is the right thing to do for you and your customer base.

 

Originally published in MyCustomer.

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