Last year, building societies, banks, charities, trade bodies and consumer groups joined forces to launch the first ever Financial Services Vulnerability Taskforce. Chaired by Joanna Elson OBE, Chief Executive of the Money Advice Trust, the taskforce is designed to ensure the fair treatment of customers facing challenging personal circumstances. Now, the first report from the taskforce has been released, outlining best practice for the industry.
With flexibility as one of the fundamental tenets of the Vulnerability Taskforce, the report highlights that no two customers are the same, and should be treated as individuals. Vulnerability is emphasised as being dynamic and the taskforce recommends that service providers build this into training their staff to provide support, even when the customer may not be open about their situation. Similarly, customers should be able to access practical, jargon-free information and help via the range of communication channels made available by each firm, including reference to specialist help in the charity sector where appropriate. Where customers require regular assistance within their circumstances, firms should consider offering dedicated points of contact to support them.
- Enabling people to report a death only once within the same organisation, a ‘one-stop-shop notice’, for example when a customer may have multiple relationships with a firm.
- Ensuring that a range of customer evaluation techniques, such as mystery shopping, are embedded into firm’s evaluation processes.
- Allowing the necessary flexibility and authority to both frontline and specialist teams to take action that may sit outside usual practices and procedures, if right for the customer.
Joanna Elson OBE, Chief Executive of the Money Advice Trust said:
“The real test of the Taskforce’s work, of course, will be whether customers who are vulnerable begin to experience improvements in the everyday service they receive – whether they are accessing a current account, managing a loan or making any other interaction with financial service providers of all kinds. I have every confidence that firms will rise to this challenge, and that real results on the ground will follow.”
In support, BSA Chief Executive Robin Fieth said:
“Aiming to get it right for all customers all of the time is clearly how it should be. For those facing challenging personal circumstances, how they are treated in-branch or on the phone also makes a massive difference. Building society staff work hard to go the extra mile for their customers by being flexible and sensitive. What this taskforce report does is bring together best-practice right across financial services. It delivers a valuable learning resource, lifting the bar on standards for the treatment of vulnerable customers.”
The report also contains best practice examples from participating building societies and banks plus best practice from the utilities and insurance sectors which can be applied more generally to improve service.
The Vulnerability Taskforce has identified that there is a clear need for improvement in the outcomes for vulnerable customers. Financial services trade associations are encouraged to collaborate on areas where there is a common agenda and an opportunity to heighten standards. As a result, we should expect to see a new gold standard when it comes to the treatment of customers in financial services and further collaborative working to improve support for vulnerable consumers.