A trite statement I know, but when you think about it, it’s easy to say yes of course, we always deliver best practice ….but what is ‘best practice’? How do we know we are all singing from the same hymn sheet so to speak? Yes there are many round table meetings being held by the big boys and widely published verbatim reportage emanates from those meetings, but when you really read through these, and this may just be my perception, there seems to be a lot of wish statements “we need to help the customer be more proactive” “we should offer more easy ways to contact us” “we must ensure we provide sufficient training” and a lot of take away items and frankly, a lot of it make me go “well duh”.
I think it’s a given that we are all delivering best practice as our organisations have defined it, we are all looking for constant improvement and risk assessing as we go, but even as we all adopt similar processes are we actually delivering comparable levels of service within the realms of regulation? FCA or otherwise?
Well luckily, the Financial Services Vulnerability Taskforce, made up of members of the banking and financial industry along with charities and consumer groups got together last year to launch the first Vulnerability Taskforce and they published their report outlining best practice recommendations for the industry when dealing with vulnerable customers earlier this year to assist with improving the experience and customer outcomes for those customers most in need.
The report outlines nine principles and recommendations that aim to improve outcomes for customers in vulnerable circumstances to act as a framework on which we can all hang our hats:
Sensitive, flexible response
When customers seek help and support, firms should treat them sensitively, flexibly and be responsive to their needs.
Effective access to support
Customers should be able to access practical, jargon-free information and help through the range of communication channels that each firm provides. They should also be informed about other, external sources of help relevant to their situation.
Customers should not need to tell firms about their particular circumstances or characteristics more than once.
Specialist help available
Customers should have access to specialist support to help make informed choices in light of their individual situation. Where customers require regular or on-going assistance in such circumstances, firms should consider opportunities to provide dedicated points of contact to support them.
Easy for family and friends to support
At their customers’ request, firms should make it easy for a friend or family member to help manage their money.
Customers particularly at risk of being scammed or financially abused need to be (and feel) protected by their financial service provider.
Customer focused reviews
Evaluation and monitoring procedures should center on obtaining a positive outcome for the customer.
The industry should, via the financial services trade associations and other bodies, identify opportunities to collaborate on areas where there is a common agenda and an opportunity to improve the outcome for customers in vulnerable situations.
Regulators should help financial services firms and the industry achieve better customer outcomes.
This is practical advice advocating improved procedures and soft skills for all customer facing activities. What it tells me that all the talking, and meetings and publishing is definitely making a difference and that actually best practice is not only a no brainer but a reality industry wide…..phew!