The Growing Importance of Vulnerability in the Collections Industry

Finding the right debt collections solution is vital, and the pressure on businesses will only increase as awareness of vulnerable customers grows.

Author: Simon Cadbury

Over recent years, the question of vulnerability and mental health has become increasingly important. In the last few months we’ve seen several high profile names work to raise awareness of the issue, including Prince Harry, who gave an emotional interview in which he opened up about his own struggles following the death of his mother.

This push to remove the stigma surrounding mental health issues has also impacted the corporate world, with organisations now facing increasing pressure to act and provide services and support that are appropriate to the needs of vulnerable customers.

Not only is public scrutiny increasing, regulatory bodies such as the FCA are taking a closer look at how organisations are currently dealing with these customers. Notably, the Yorkshire Building Society was fined over £4 million following an FCA investigation which found that it had failed to deal fairly and appropriately with customers who were experiencing payment difficulties.

Aside from hitting businesses’ wallets, failing to deal properly with vulnerable customers can also have a severe reputational impact, with organisations being accused of being outmoded, or worse, unethical.

What, if anything, is already being done in the industry? Though collections processes are notoriously traditional, things are beginning to change. While most companies still communicate with their debtor customers through a combination of threatening letters and phone contact, it has become abundantly clear that this is no longer sufficient.

Today’s customers expect more. They feel their relationship and engagement with their financial service provider must be on their own terms. Consumers are now used to taking the active role in interacting with services, and so debt collection processes must change.

Part of this change involves communicating relevant and useful information through multiple channels – including digital. This is especially important for vulnerable customers. Being sensitive to individual needs with processes that offer a real time, low stress, and non-confrontational method of engaging the customer, will go a long way to alleviating problems and prevent ongoing debt issues.

Finding the right debt collections solution is vital, and the pressure on businesses will only increase as awareness of vulnerable customers grows. Current collections processes are no longer sufficient, and it is an area in which more needs to be done. Reaching out in diverse ways and providing continual support throughout the journey will ensure vulnerable customers are properly assisted. With modern thinking, organisations can provide a flexible digital customer journey that meets the needs of all users.

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