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What is Customer Vulnerability?


The Team at CallMiner

December 21, 2020

Customer vulnerability
Customer vulnerability

Vulnerability is a driving factor behind many human interactions, and business dealings are no exception. The unique circumstances brought about by the unprecedented COVID-19 worldwide pandemic have resulted in a significant increase in the number of customers who are experiencing crisis and vulnerability. As such, it’s more important than ever for organizations to develop strategies for understanding customer vulnerability, gain and act on insights related to customer vulnerability, identify vulnerable customers, and empower employees to manage relationships with vulnerable customers effectively.

A company’s interactions with vulnerable customers provide a source of valuable insights that can enable organizations to increase empathy in customer interactions and transform business outcomes and performance.

Learn more about how to identify, support and retain vulnerable customers by downloading our new whitepaper, The Vulnerability Blueprint: How to Identify Support and Retain Vulnerable Customers.

Read on to learn more about vulnerability among customers, how to identify vulnerable customers, and how to empower your employees to better manage interactions with vulnerable customers.

Definition of Customer Vulnerability

Customer vulnerability can take many forms. According to the UK  (FCA), a vulnerable customer is a customer who is particularly susceptible to detriment due to personal circumstances. There are four key drivers of customer vulnerability, including:

  • Low capability
  • Low resilience
  • Suffering a negative life event
  • Coping with an ongoing or chronic health condition

Examples of vulnerable customers include:

  • A customer who has lost their job and is unable to pay their bills
  • A customer who is grieving the recent loss of a loved one
  • A customer who is juggling working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic while also managing young children at home who are learning remotely
  • A customer who is unfamiliar with digital technology and is thus unable to navigate online customer support systems like knowledge bases or chatbots

Digitally vulnerable customers are those who are unable to or have chosen not to engage in the digital world and may be left behind as the internet plays an ever-growing role in daily life. This digital divide can make it challenging to find work, shop online, and even communicate with their loved ones. It’s up to brands to develop strategies to deliver customer service to all vulnerable customers, including ensuring that digitally vulnerable consumers can access and receive their preferred customer experience.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rapid increase in customer vulnerability, including customers who are unemployed, those struggling with mental health or substance abuse, customers who are coping with grief and loss, and those who are experiencing significant financial problems, customer vulnerability isn’t a new phenomenon. However, the sudden increase in vulnerability among customers means that companies must act now to implement strategies for identifying and managing relationships with vulnerable customers.

How to Identify Vulnerable Customers

Customers are rarely forthcoming about their personal challenges, yet companies are facing tough competition in every market and can’t afford to wait for customers to disclose their challenges or make their wishes clear. That means agents must use active listening, pick up on contextual clues, and analyze customer sentiment while incorporating insights from past experiences to identify and act on customer needs.

Leveraging data by using integrated analytics solutions allows organizations to identify vulnerability among existing customers and move to assist them quickly. Speech analytics and interaction analytics, for example, allow companies to capture, monitor, and analyze all customer interactions across every channel in a single platform.

Beyond just the content of an interaction, interaction analytics solutions like CallMiner Eureka analyze the context and emotion of communication by measuring the stress levels, voice volume, speed of speech, and other variables to gain a more complete picture of vulnerable customers while also scoring agents on the empathy and agitation they express during customer interactions. These solutions can identify important factors such as:

  • Words and phrases that can indicate vulnerability, such as those relating to job loss, illness, and abuse
  • Non-compliant language such as raised voices and harassing statements
  • Signs of stress and agitation in both customer and employee voices

By benchmarking common vulnerability signals, companies can quickly and accurately identify vulnerable customers in future interactions. Companies can implement alerting systems to notify employees when they’re interacting with a potentially vulnerable customer based on these signals, enabling employees to respond more effectively by following best practices for engaging with vulnerable customers.

For more information on the powerful role speech analytics can play in redefining customer experience management, download our white paper, The CX Pro’s Guide to Speech Analytics.

Empowering Your Customer Service Teams to Engage with Vulnerable Customers

It doesn’t end with identifying vulnerable customers. Companies must equip their customer service representatives and other customer-facing employees with the insights and knowledge they need to better manage these interactions. To empower your employees to engage with vulnerable customers effectively, companies should:

  • Provide employees with relevant background information about the customer
  • Provide real-time alerts to make employees aware that they’re interacting with a vulnerable customer
  • Provide meaningful feedback on interactions with vulnerable customers to improve performance
  • Deliver training and support to help employees develop effective communications skills for interacting with vulnerable customers

Helping vulnerable customers starts with identifying who they are and establishing suitable processes to support their needs. Adapting to your company’s most vulnerable clients can help you improve the level of service you offer customers across the board.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some examples of vulnerable customers?

Vulnerable customers can include individuals with a loss of income due to unemployment, those experiencing health issues or bereavement, family member serving as caregivers, people with limited by digital literacy, etc.

How can you identify a vulnerable customer?

A vulnerable customer is a person who is particularly susceptible to detriment due to personal circumstances. AI-powered technology such as conversation analytics and conversation intelligence, allow companies to analyze the content, context and acoustic measures of conversations to identify signs or triggers that could indicate potentially vulnerable individuals.

What factors could contribute to customer vulnerability?

There are many, but four key factors that drive customer vulnerability include: low capability, low resilience, suffering a negative life event, coping with an ongoing or chronic health condition.

Customer Experience Risk Management & Compliance Executive Intelligence APAC EMEA North America