How many of your customers are vulnerable? How about now? | DMA

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How many of your customers are vulnerable? How about now?

The DMA’s Vulnerable consumer taskforce highlights that any customer has the potential
to be vulnerable and how brands can be sure to treat these customers correctly

At some time or another, every business will interact with a consumer that is vulnerable. Whether it’s digitally, in person or over the phone, the challenge for any responsible business is how they support these customers. Earlier this year, the DMA’s Vulnerable consumer taskforce held an open workshop, inviting experts and marketers from across the industry to participate in a discussion to identify the key challenges, risks and ways that businesses can better cater to vulnerable consumers.

Today the taskforce releases its’ new whitepaper ‘The vulnerable consumer’, highlighting the challenge in defining vulnerability and offering some best practice advice for brands. During the initial workshop, one of the key themes that came out of the discussions was the difficulty in one single definition of what makes a customer vulnerable. This was explained by the changing nature of vulnerability, with customers potentially experiencing anything from short-term distractions to more long-term illness.

The report highlights how even the circumstances and situations people may consider everyday can make a customer vulnerable at a particular moment. Simply being caught at the wrong moment, whilst distracted by something more important or feeling social pressure, can cause someone to be more vulnerable in that moment and make a decision they wouldn’t in another context. Therefore, it’s crucial that everyone, whether customer-facing or not, within a brand understands and is not holding onto an overly simplistic concept of vulnerability.

Elaine Lee, Co-Chair of the DMA vulnerable consumer taskforce and Managing Director at ReynoldsBusbyLee, explains: “It’s vital that businesses keep in mind that vulnerability is a very changeable and contextual state. Any illness, condition, stress or disadvantage is likely to change over time – whether for the better or worse – and will usually affect your customer differently in any given situation. It’s crucial that everyone in an organisation, not just those that are customer-facing, understand this and are not simply defining vulnerability as obvious factors such as physical or mental disabilities. This overly-simplistic could lead to businesses missing potentially vulnerable customers, at best leading to a misunderstanding and at worst a more serious problem for the business.”

Jacqui Crawley, Co-Chair of the DMA vulnerable consumer taskforce and Managing Director at KMB, comments: “Ultimately, the best way to mitigate vulnerability is to meet your customer’s needs on a one-to-one basis and, wherever possible, to give them the power to control their own experience. For example, by the simple act of enabling them to choose the channels that work best for them and interact at their own pace, on their own terms, to achieve their own preferred outcome. For its part, many businesses are already trying to recognise the challenge of vulnerable consumers and this paper offers some of the ideas that were discussed by key stakeholders from across the industry.”

The DM Trust was set up with a mission to create a sustainable future for one-to-one marketing and support initiatives that promote fairness to consumers. With a clear need for organisations to learn to understand the needs of vulnerable consumers, as well as how to teach and support their staff to do the same every day, the DMA and DM Trust have joined forces to offer a one-day vulnerable consumer training workshop. The session is designed to train managers working in contact centres and enable them to pass their new knowledge back to their organisations. These will also be led by the DMA vulnerable consumer taskforce’s Co-chairs, Elaine Lee and Jacqui Crawley, with the next session due to take place on 27th September, find out more here:

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