Vulnerable Customer

Speech Technology Helps Financial Firms Support Vulnerable Customers

The pressure on financial firms to treat vulnerable customers with compassion is all-time-high

The global pandemic, national lockdowns and growing unemployment have been driving a significant spike in consumer vulnerability. The pressure on financial firms to treat their vulnerable customers with compassion and sensitivity during all interactions has never been higher. Recordsure utilises highly sophisticated speech recognition analytics to help firms support their vulnerable customers and rapidly scale up their operations.

The role of speech recognition, underpinned with Machine Learning-driven insight, has become vital for firms that want to proactively support their customers while ensuring regulatory compliance and supervisory oversight at scale.

What is vulnerability?

Someone who, due to their personal circumstances, is especially susceptible to detriment, particularly when a firm is not acting with appropriate levels of care.

Financial Conduct Authority

Some groups, such as people over 65 or under 24, unemployed people and those with no formal qualifications, are more likely to display potential vulnerability characteristics than the general population. However, the regulator’s definition suggests that identifying potentially vulnerable customers can no longer be simply assumed or based on demographics. UK adults of all ages and backgrounds can have characteristics of potential vulnerability, and more people than ever before can be classified as vulnerable. FCA has previously stated that up to 50% of us could be potentially vulnerable at some stage in our lives.

Vulnerability exacerbated by Covid-19

Covid-19 has radically changed many people’s daily lives in the UK and around the world. Home-schooling children whilst working at the dining room table became normal for many. Whilst those working in the retail and entertainment sectors have been relying on government-backed schemes to keep businesses and livelihoods afloat.

The long-term impact on society, work and home environments, as well as people’s mental, emotional and physical wellbeing, is likely to be severe.

Financial indicators of vulnerability, such as the loss of income leading to credit, rent, and mortgage default, can often be signs of wider or future vulnerability for a customer.

Vulnerable Customer

Isolation and depression, increased stress and pressure that demonstrate themselves in destructive behaviour and addiction, reduced access to social and leisure facilities, are all factors leading to poorer mental and physical health that will be felt for years to come. A drastic change to someone’s income is only likely to exacerbate these issues.

For financial services firms, the responsibility to treat customers fairly has therefore never been more pronounced. While faced with a situation out of everyone’s control, the way firms respond will have lasting significance.

Financial services firms are facing new challenges

People’s financial circumstances are strongly connected to their mental, emotional and physical wellbeing and the next few years will be about far more than credit cards, loans and mortgages. Financial firms have been forced to respond quickly to the latest developments and associated operational problems, such as:

  • Significant increases in debt management cases and being forced to scale up operations quickly
  • Loss of revenue and increased operating costs as lending defaults increase
  • Rapidly changing product sets responding to government lending schemes
  • Evolving customer expectations leading to expanding customer contact channel approach, and a rapid introduction of video call platforms such as Zoom and MS Teams
  • Increasing pressure on employees to support customers, while the employees themselves are faced with changes within their roles, and dealing with their own personal circumstances
  • Increased social pressure to support customers through difficult times

Financial services firms are heavily regulated, meaning that they must continue to operate and prove robust and compliant processes and maintain strong capital adequacy to protect against 2008-like financial crisis. As government support for livelihoods inevitably falls away, and incomes become squeezed, handling vulnerable customer with compassion and sensitivity could prove to be difficult, even for the largest and most established financial services firms.

How can speech technology help financial firms support vulnerable customers?

Deployment of Artificial Intelligence technologies offers readily available solutions to firms to monitor, review and supervise interactions with vulnerable customers at scale, ensuring compliance and fair treatment at all times. 

Advances in Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning now make it possible to accurately spot potential signs of unfair treatment of vulnerable customers within advisor-customer conversations.

Firms like Recordsure can provide highly accurate recording and transcription solutions that other Machine Learning and data science firms can also utilise to derive insight. Recordsure provides Machine Learning models that focus on compliance assurance and risk management, and provide operational efficiencies and customer insights along the way.

Regardless of how firms decide to solve the challenge of supporting vulnerable customers and managing their supervisory oversight, doing so at scale will almost certainly require the help of Machine Learning tools and systems.