Balancing technology and empathy: A guide to supporting vulnerable customers

Balancing technology and empathy: A guide to supporting vulnerable customers

In the wake of escalating living costs, contact centres have become crucial lifelines, particularly for vulnerable customers requiring support across utilities, healthcare, and housing sectors. This enhanced reliance on contact centres underscores their pivotal role in delivering responsible and sensitive services.

Recently, Business Systems conducted an enlightening webinar titled “Supporting Vulnerable Customers,” where insights were shared by experts including Shaunna Wilson, WEM Consultant at Business Systems, Jamie Airey from UK Power Networks, and Scott Budding from Calabrio. They explored various strategies to effectively support vulnerable individuals.

Jamie Airey underscored the significance of recognising vulnerability, which can often present itself in unexpected ways, such as during a power outage affecting those dependent on medical equipment. He advocated for a transparent approach in identifying and addressing these needs early on.

Shaunna Wilson discussed the balance required between automation and human interaction, particularly in delicate matters like personal finance, which have become more pressing due to the financial strains on many individuals.

Scott Budding emphasized the necessity of proactive engagement across various communication channels to better identify and assist vulnerable customers. He highlighted the essential role of training agents to detect signs of vulnerability and respond appropriately.

The importance of maintaining high standards in call handling and conducting regular quality assurance checks was a key point of discussion. Such measures ensure agents are well-prepared to offer empathetic and trustworthy support, crucial for those who may feel isolated.

Training and ongoing support for agents were identified as critical, with panelists agreeing on the use of real-life scenarios for effective training. Furthermore, the importance of monitoring agent well-being was stressed, ensuring they receive adequate support to maintain their own mental health.

The discussion also covered the role of technology as an enabler. Through interaction analytics, technology can facilitate the proactive identification of vulnerable customers, streamline support processes, and foster continuous improvement.

Agent well-being was another focal point, with recommendations for competitive salaries, flexible scheduling, and access to confidential support lines to help maintain work-life balance and reduce attrition rates.

In conclusion, the panel reflected on the necessity of ongoing engagement with customers, continuous learning, and a robust strategy to support vulnerable customers comprehensively. By integrating empathy, proactive strategies, and technological support, contact centres can significantly impact the lives of those in need, reinforcing their role as more than just service providers but as vital supporters of community well-being.

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