The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) recently presented to the Silver Marque companies some guidelines it has prepared to help organisations when dealing with the vulnerable consumers they speak to over the telephone…
At some time most companies will have telephone conversations with people who find it difficult to make an informed decision about the choices offered to them – choices such as changing a utility supplier, selecting a product, general customer enquiries or making a charitable donation. This may be those who have a diagnosed condition like dementia; those who have an undiagnosed or temporary mental health condition such as severe anxiety; those with learning difficulties or literacy issues; or those who have problems understanding the language.
Ofcom research has found that disabled people have difficulty dealing with call centres. Under the Equality Act 2010 (formally the Disability Discrimination Act) it is illegal to discriminate. This means that when a call centre identifies that a consumer has a disability they must make reasonable adjustments to accommodate them – for example, proactively suggesting solutions that may help these consumers make informed choices, and taking steps to ensure that they fully understand key documents such as the quotation, the contract and the guarantee. Good service makes good business sense.
Contacting consumers by phone to sell, upsell, cross sell products or offer new tariffs is important for both parties. The company wants to promote its products, and the consumer wants to benefit from any improved offers. It is important that vulnerable consumers are not ‘locked out’ of these dialogues.
Normally in a commercial transaction there is the assumption that the buyer knows what they want and can make an informed choice about the most appropriate product or service. However, vulnerable consumers can be trusting and believe that a sales representative (whose motivation is to sell) is acting in their best interests in an advisory capacity – this leaves them at risk of being manipulated by unscrupulous operators.
The Silver Marque partners are especially aware of the vulnerable nature of some customers and meet regularly to share best practice in marketing and customer service and a common work ethic in treating the customer fairly.