In October’s Nelly webinar, Dr Roger Miles introduced us to the dangers of confirmation bias that often leads individuals and firms to stop gathering information, when the evidence gathered so far confirms the views or prejudices one would like to be true. None more so than in the case of a firm’s approach to handling vulnerable customers, where a firm can so comfortably rest on their laurels or convince themselves that their approach to vulnerability is adequate.
Last week’s webinar on “Vulnerability: Meeting the rising expectation of the regulator”, with Caroline Wells, a Commissioner on Energy UK Commission for Customers in Vulnerable Circumstances and the former Head of Consumer Insight at The Financial Ombudsman Service, would suggest that regulated firms are waking up to the growing expectation of regulators and challenging their current approach to vulnerability. 40% of webinar attendees told us that the “knowledge and competency of their staff was the most significant gap in their approach to vulnerable customers”, while 69% of our audience said for 2020 that “they are rethinking how they train their staff on vulnerability”.
These are indeed positive steps, but worryingly for me was that majority of folk on the webinar (over 76% actually) said “that their firm in 2020 will still be relying on eLearning to demonstrate to the regulator their staff’s knowledge and competency on vulnerability”. In my opinion, eLearning will do little to satisfy the requirements of regulators or help front line staff working at the coal face to identify society’s most vulnerable customers.
I liken this to somebody learning to ride a bicycle from a book. For sure they may well know the theory … but I guarantee first time they actually get on the bike they fall off. This is because they are not “competent” and I like when you learn to ride a bike where you practice and practice until you get it right … this essential process is missed out by firms training their rank and file employees to deal with vulnerability.
Caroline went further, when she spoke about the urgent need for firms to model good practice in handling vulnerable customers with firms outside their own sector. When this mindset to culture change is adopted, you begin to understand why leading energy and financial firms are now challenging their own bias and are now using AI powered knowledge retention tools like Clever Nelly to continually assess and improve their staff knowledge and competency on vulnerability.
For 2020, are you willing to challenge your firm’s bias and asking the questions that really need to be asked about your firms approach to vulnerability?