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The Role of Leadership Teams in Fair Customer Treatment

The Role of Leadership Teams in Fair Customer Treatment


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The Role of Leadership Teams in Fair Customer Treatment

4 Aug 2021

Eric Brown
Supervisor helping customer rep

The issue of the fair treatment of vulnerable customers is definitely here to stay. There are now 27.7 million adults in the UK with at least one characteristic of vulnerability, up 15% since February 2020. It’s a similar situation in Australia, where over 2 million adults have low financial resilience and in South Africa, where the number of vulnerable customers has risen significantly too.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has issued guidance to UK financial services businesses on dealing with customer vulnerability, with other territories set to follow suit. At the heart of this guidance is an overarching responsibility placed on senior leaders. They’re implored to “create and maintain a culture that enables and supports staff to take responsibility for reducing the potential for harm to vulnerable customers” as well as ensuring they “embed the fair treatment of vulnerable customers in their policies and processes”. This has led many leadership teams to question just how they can achieve this? How can they establish a prevailing ethos of supporting every vulnerable customer? How can they embed this culture at the heart of their organisation as a matter of urgency?

Learning from the Frontline

While much has been made of empowering the frontline to deal with vulnerable customers, what needs to come first is a thorough understanding from a management perspective of just what this entails. Your leadership team need to experience life at the coal face, as it were, understanding what’s involved in interactions with vulnerable customers, many of whom perhaps don’t even realise they’re vulnerable or are unwilling to disclose their vulnerability. The FCA itself talks of a “culture of feedback and learning from the frontline”, which is where you should begin in your efforts to instil a mindset that’s focused on the fair treatment of vulnerable customers. Systems and processes which support this approach are a must too, able to provide feedback from both the frontline and customers to ensure an organisation-wide understanding of the issues faced on a daily basis.

Similarly, communication between your leadership team and the frontline is key. If staff understand more about why certain policies and procedures are being introduced, they’re more likely to buy-in to any changes. At the same time, if decision-makers can see things from a frontline perspective, any changes introduced will take into account any implications for the frontline team, implications which can then be managed effectively.

Top-to-Toe Training

Crucially, vulnerability training can’t just be for the frontline. Educating your executive team needs to be a priority, perhaps even before tackling frontline training. This will ensure they understand the real challenges and issues at play, and how to face these, before asking your frontline teams to undertake what can be relatively complex training courses.

Creating vulnerability champions within your business is a great idea, but they must be empowered to make sure any training and information is not only cascaded down to the frontline but pushed right back up to board level too. Only by doing this can your business ensure its commitment to vulnerability is embedded at the very heart of the organisation.

Management Information is Key

It’s no longer enough to pay lip service to vulnerable customers. You have a responsibility to ensure you’re delivering the right outcomes for such customers’ and in-depth management information is the only way to monitor this. The pressure is on your leadership team to make sure that not only do they produce such information, with the right systems in place to provide the precise data they need, but that they regularly review this information too. It’s only by doing this that your management teams can pursue a strategy of continuous improvement when it comes to treating vulnerable customers fairly—constantly assessing results and implementing any changes necessary to guarantee the right outcomes for every customer, every time.

If your business is to embed a culture of treating vulnerable customers fairly, this must start at the top. Of course, frontline employees need to be empowered to deal with vulnerable customer interactions but this isn’t enough. It’s only when the same values and ethos are instilled in every employee and in every management decision that you can say your business maintains a culture that reduces the potential for harm to vulnerable customers. Once this is the case, fair treatment should and will happen organically. You’ll move away from an overly prescribed approach as to how to deal with customers and instead, the fair treatment of each and every customer will simply become a standard business process.

Our complaint management system, Aptean Respond, can support your entire business in its efforts to embed a culture that ensures the fair treatment of vulnerable customers, delivering the information and insight needed at every step of the customer journey. Get in touch with our team of complaints experts today for more information, we’d love to hear from you.

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