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Vulnerable Customers: top tips for the best insights

In our final blog spotlighting our work with vulnerable customers, we bring you three top tips to maximise the experience of participants and learnings for the business when conducting insight work with this group.

Top tip #1. Design projects that meet both the business objectives and the needs of your vulnerable customers

Fundamental to The Customer Closeness Company is the belief in the power of direct interactions between businesses and their customers. However, with a vulnerable audience this may place undue pressure on customers. Which can in turn reduce, rather than enhance, understanding. This does not mean we forego this vital connection; rather that we have developed alternative approaches to ensure the customer voice is heard loud and clear in the room - whilst being sensitive to our respondents’ needs. For example, in a recent project for a financial services client we used pre-recorded film rather than live interaction. This allowed our participants to disclose the nature and impact of their vulnerabilities in a one-to-one environment and careful editing ensured that the lived experience was powerfully communicated in the interactive client workshop.

Top tip #2. Recognise that ‘vulnerability’ is diverse

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has a wealth of information and resources for those of us wanting to better understand vulnerability. Its framework of vulnerability brings to life an extensive set of life circumstances or experiences, rather than a homogenous group. Ignore this at your peril when considering who you might invite to a group discussion. Get it wrong and you have a group of people with little/no commonality and potential embarrassment. Get it right and the group can provide a safe and open environment where participants benefit from shared experiences.

Top tip #3. Follow your own advice!

Researching with vulnerable customers requires us to practice what we preach. Following the same standards and guidance that we would give to businesses, all stimulus and questioning formats need to be reviewed with the lens of our customers’ vulnerability(s). Again, this doesn’t mean we forego exploring new concepts or ideas; just that we have to be creative in the way we present them to ensure they are accessible to all. Using images to support text, reading out ideas or allowing participants to view stimulus in advance (rather than in the public and pressured group context) are possible reasonable adjustments – and there may be many more depending on the particular vulnerability that is in focus.

By following these principles, respondents not only enjoy the sessions, but come away feeling their contribution is making a positive difference to the customer experience. We’ll leave the final word to one of our vulnerable customers Aqsa* who recently participated in a project for an insurance provider. “I’m really happy to talk about this topic and help these companies because we deal with them. I see these companies are now more mindful which is very good. It shows we are part of society and not less than.”

*names changed for confidentiality


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