Identifying a Vulnerable Customer
We take the view that the onus is on us the consultant and not the client to identify a need, whilst some factors might be obvious, such as the client not being able to speak the same language, others will be less so. Consultants should not assume that their client will always tell them of any difficulties that they may have. Consultants need to be able to identify vulnerable customers and act appropriately.
Risk factors which contribute to vulnerability can include:
It can also include, but are not necessarily limited to those who:
- have mental health conditions
- have physical disabilities
- have learning disabilities
Signs to Look Out For
- The client appears confused
- Take a long time to answer questions
- Ask us to speak up or speak more slowly
- Ask unrelated questions
- keep wandering off the point in the discussion and talking about irrelevant things
- keep repeating themselves
- Sound flustered or out of breath
When Dealing With Vulnerable Customers Or Customers In General
- Email or post a copy of our agreement and any other information before the appointment.
- Do not assume that a client fully understands all the implications of an offer or our agreement. Talk them through the agreement and any other details also.
- Always speak clearly and enunciate
- Repeat anything that is not understood.
- Don’t rush them.
- Be patient, empathize and listen carefully.
- Ask if they need to discuss this with anyone else.
- Ask if they want to think about something before deciding.
- Aim to clarify understanding at every point posing the question “is that ok or is there anything you’d like me to go through again?”
Enabling a Vulnerable Customer
It is important to anticipate the possibility that any client may be vulnerable and to ensure tailored reasonable adjustments are in place to allow them to access the services provided by our company. Make a courtesy call to confirm an appointment made and explain the process if you did not do this at the time of booking the appointment.
This will help us to be able to properly take instructions from a client or a vulnerable client, and to allow the client to receive appropriate adjustments needed.
Such adjustments might include, but are not necessarily limited to: scheduling extra time to meet with customers who may have difficulty in understanding the advice given, or who may have difficulty in explaining their instructions due to them communicating through a third party, or due to a speech impairment, for example; using terminology that the client will understand and avoiding the use of jargon wherever possible; being able to provide information, such as advice in our appointment letter, in large print or via email.
Make sure that the consumer is not flustered, agitated or in an emotional state when they make a decision, remember vulnerable consumers can sometimes be forgetful or overly trusting. Do not assume that the client can hear everything you are saying – they may have a hearing impairment.
Think, be aware and courteous to all our customer not just those who seem to be vulnerable.