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This involves designing products or services so they are accessible to, and usable by, as many consumers as possible. Vulnerable consumers should be considered at all stages of the product and service design process, including idea generation, development, testing, launch and review, to make sure products and services meet as many consumers' needs as possible.
Finding the right communication channel for consumers with differing needs is key. Consumers with mental health problems may prefer electronic means of communication, as they can create less anxiety than telephone, face-to-face or letter interactions. Older consumers may prefer a letter, face-to-face discussion or a phone call. It is recommended to offer as many different channels of communication as you can. This could include email, text messaging, mobile apps such as WhatsApp or web-based interactions, telephone, face-to-face discussions and letters.
It should be remembered that some consumers may not have access to the internet, so customer support should be offered through other communication channels. Businesses should always ask consumers what their preferred method of communication is.
Train your staff to understand the nature and scale of vulnerability that exist in your target consumer market.
Embed the fair treatment of vulnerable consumers across the business. All staff should understand how their role affects the fair treatment of vulnerable consumers.
Ensure staff have the necessary skills and capability to recognise and react to a range of vulnerabilities.
Provide support to staff to build resilience and have a safe space to offload if they have been supporting vulnerable consumers as this can be emotionally difficult for them as well.
Consider training staff on what to look out for. This could include, for example, the Dementia Friends training or the Friends Against Scams training. It may also be worth considering sourcing training on mental health awareness.
A Vulnerable Consumer Policy defines what constitutes a vulnerable consumer and sets out how these consumers can achieve a fair outcome.
You should outline rules that ensure the policy is followed and updated, and provide regular training. The policy should outline how your business can improve and support vulnerable consumers, and what is expected from all staff in helping to identify vulnerability to ensure every consumer gets a fair and positive experience.
A practical way to support this policy and training is consumer feedback.
Try to understand the impact of vulnerability and how this might affect the consumer experience and outcomes. Consumer vulnerability is fluid and dynamic; consumers can move in and out of periods of situational vulnerability.
Referring to consumers directly as 'vulnerable' can be disempowering.
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