This week, I was fortunate enough to attend an event organised by Peter Massey, the Chief Customer Officer Forum. It’s a fantastic invite only community of customer experts, customer experience director & chief customer officers from many large and well known brands. With Chatham House rules applying, we can openly sharing learnings, innovations and challenges that we all face, and through group discussions and private conversations, solve, learn and create new ideas.
Amongst the topics discussed at this event was the difficult area of identifying and supporting vulnerable customers. If you reflect on what that means, the immediate thought may be elderly or disabled customers, but the reality is that many customers may feel uncomfortable in identifying themselves as vulnerable. For those in service industries (such as electricity & water supplies) or regulated industries (such as banking & insurance), this is a real challenge. Ensuring that someone who needs extra assistance, priority focus or a better explanation, in particular when they are reaching out to our businesses for help, may be hard to spot amongst the deluge of daily interactions our customer facing teams handle. Your customer facing staff working in call centers will struggle to pick up nuances when talking to customers, but there was some interesting approaches on how to overcome this. Roadside assistance and rescue services start from the premise that the caller is vulnerable – whether your car won’t start on a frosty morning, or you’ve broken down by the side of the motorway, it’s imperative to get help fast. Prioritising all of these requests means asking a series of sensitive questions to determine who needs help fastest. For example, a pregnant mother with two young children who has broken down on a dark night in the middle of winter on a country road would logically take priority over a single young guy who calls in to report he cant start his car one morning when he’s still at home. This approach got us thinking about the types of questions our customer facing staff need to ask sensitively so as to avoid causing offence. It’s going to be different for each company, but you should be thinking on this topic. Assuming that every customer may have a vulnerability, asking open empathetic questions and coaching your teams on tuning in to subtleties can help you avoid poor customer outcomes & reputation damage. Let me know what works for you!
During the course of the Chief Customer Officer Forum, I was also fortunate enough to have a couple of amazing meetings with a very impressive CEO with some amazing insight. Check back in over the next week to read who I talked to & what I learned from them.