Are Call Centre Employees Equipped for Consumer Duty?

Gold checkmark and the words consumer duty

Consumer Duty is a standard relating to improved and inclusive customer service. It came into force in July 2023 and financial firms are working proactively to meet it.

However, call centre staff report being under-equipped to manage high volumes of often complex customer interactions.

So, how can we ensure strategic decisions are deliverable by frontline staff? Helen Pettifer, Director of Helen Pettifer Training Ltd, explains.

Compliance With Consumer Duty

To comply with Consumer Duty, firms are gathering data on customers to inform:

  • The design of products and services to best meet customer needs and provide fair value
  • Accessibility across all communications
  • Support services that empower customers and prevent harm

One of the methods of data collection is actively encouraging customers to disclose vulnerable circumstances.

The intention is for firms to use this data to tailor services and support to help customers achieve positive outcomes and avoid harm.

However, the majority of customers are reluctant to disclose. For a start, they may not see that their bereavement, disability, gambling addiction or mental health challenges are relevant to the organization.

Secondly, there is a fear of judgement or the consequences of sharing. Thirdly, there is concern about how the data will be used or shared.

How to Encourage Customer Disclosures

To encourage disclosures, firms need to provide customers with both the opportunity and reasons to share.

The customer must see the benefit in sharing personal, and sometimes emotional, information. This requires skilful, empathic and well-equipped call centre and frontline staff.

In a short conversation, these employees need to:

  • Build trust, reassure and offer support
  • Ask the right questions and be skilled in active listening
  • Be fully informed of the range of options that are available to customers
  • Handle what can be complex and distressing disclosures with sensitivity and without judgement
  • Know how to record disclosures appropriately
  • Be able to protect their wellbeing following difficult conversations

This is a lot to ask and yet it seems that there is a gap between the intentions of a company and the investment in call centre employees.

What Do Call Centre Employees Need to Deliver Great Customer Service?

A report published by the Call Centre Management Association reveals that two-thirds of call centre staff report their work is more difficult than a year ago. As a result, a quarter are unhappy in their role.

It identifies the causes as:

  • An increase in call volumes
  • The complexity of customer interactions
  • Insufficient training to meet customer and company expectations
  • Underperforming technology

This report isn’t limited to the financial sector, but it does illustrate that investment in call centre teams is necessary. It’s a fundamental requirement for improving customer service.

So, if employees need to identify potential vulnerabilities, encourage disclosures and record information, we can’t expect them to take more calls. Or limit and measure the time they have on telephone calls with customers.

They will need sufficient training, appropriate resources and updates to handle complex calls. In addition, technology should be set up to manage routine enquiries and free up time for personalized interactions.

Technology can also aid identification of vulnerability, helping employees to focus on moving the conversation towards what support the customer might need. Finally, a supportive culture helps to protect employee wellbeing.

When teams are trained and properly equipped, each customer conversation adds variety and continuous learning to the role.

Coupled with recognition for positive outcomes, this ensures the team feel valued. In turn, this improves motivation, confidence and customer service.

Vulnerable Customer Training

Helen Pettifer, Director of Helen Pettifer Training Ltd
Helen Pettifer

I was a call centre manager and am aware of the challenges of the role. This experience informs the design and delivery of my vulnerable customer training for financial institutions, utility companies and public service organizations.

To achieve the goals of Consumer Duty, we need to appreciate and invest in call centre staff.

Written by: Helen Pettifer

If you are looking for more information on some of the topics covered in this article, you should read these next:

Author: Guest Author
Reviewed by: Megan Jones

Published On: 30th Nov 2023 - Last modified: 22nd Apr 2024
Read more about - Business Insights, , ,

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