Following the call to action from the FCA over two years ago, many financial institutions have taken great leaps forward in terms of recognising the signs and symptoms of vulnerable customers, but RedArc believes that insurers need to think more long term in order to take the interests of this group to the heart of their organisation. There are two areas in which the organisation believes insurers could do more:
- Practical support for vulnerable customers
- Support for staff on the frontline dealing with vulnerable customers
Christine Husbands, managing director for RedArc says: “Having a greater awareness of this customer group is a really important first step, historically most financial organisations haven’t considered the needs of different customer groups, the importance of which should not be underestimated. However, awareness and sympathy doesn’t equate to action necessarily, and we’d question whether enough insurers have built in sufficient steps to make a long-term difference to these customers – particularly as insurers are much more likely to encounter vulnerable people on a day-to-day basis due to the nature of their proposition.”
Practical support for vulnerable customers
More organisations should be providing third-party services to support customers and their families in difficult circumstances. Whilst customer services teams can be expertly trained to support the individual through a claim in the short term, having a dedicated and experienced third-party expert who can help with life and medical issues holistically can make a huge difference – as cognitive abilities at times of illness, disability, trauma or bereavement can be significantly impaired. A well-supported person is more likely to be able to get back to normal more quickly, improve their confidence, and potentially get back to work, reducing their financial vulnerability – but this can take weeks and months not days.
Support for staff on the frontline
It is obviously vital to equip staff with suitable training to deal with customers but also with the tools to help build up personal resilience and a way to positively process the often harrowing experience of dealing with vulnerable customers. Without job satisfaction, insurers will not be able to retain staff – which decreases the organisation’s ability to deal successfully with vulnerable customers in the future.
Husbands continued: “Products and services can be amended in a fairly straightforward way to accommodate the needs of vulnerable customers, but policy change – where an organisation is truly looking to change the way it behaves in respect of the vulnerabilities of their customers’ – needs a long-term approach for both the individual and employee.
“In an industry that can struggle with a reputation for mistrust, insurers that go the extra mile for customers in difficult circumstances can do much to enhance the public’s perceptions. And with increasing numbers of us likely to fall in to the vulnerable customer group at some point, if only simply due to living longer and age-related illnesses, reputation could become more fundamental in how consumers make choices about financial institutions in the future.”