Positive feedback for Ombudsman Services financial vulnerability workshop

Ombudsman Services | Aug 16, 2019

Ombudsman Services recently hosted the third in a series of workshops about vulnerability for providers in the communications sector, with delegates leaving encouraging feedback.

The subject of this session was financial vulnerability – looking at the experiences of customers on low incomes or who are managing problematic levels of debt. Why talk about financial vulnerability?

According to a survey carried out by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in June 2018:

  • 50% of adults (25.6 million people) display one or more characteristics that signal their potential financial vulnerability.
  • Just under 8 million are over-indebted.
  • 4.1 million people are already in serious financial difficulty, falling behind with their bills and credit card payments; with 25-34 year-olds being the most indebted.
  • 4.5 million adults have been turned down for a financial product in the last two years.
  • One in six (17%) would struggle if their monthly mortgage or rent increased by less than £50.

Speakers and experts

With an impressive lineup of speakers, no wonder the workshop was rated as four out of five stars, with 100% of those responding to the follow up survey indicating that they’d be interested in attending similar events in the future.

Thank you to the following speakers and experts who provided expert insight:

Cordelia Hay of BritainThinks presented a report called “Getting a Good Deal on a Low Income” which her company had put together for the Competition and Markets Authority. It looked at customers’ experiences of using services from a range of industry sectors, including telecommunications. It made several recommendations, focusing on how communications providers could be more flexible with a customer who is struggling to pay and how the customer service offered in such circumstances could be improved.

Emma Bantges, Customer Operation Enhancement Manager at the debt recovery agency Cabot Financial, spoke about building a culture within an organisation so that customers receive support when they need it, emphasising that the whole organisation needs to buy-in. She also talked about some of the innovative things Cabot Financial are doing – such as using live analytics to help advisors identify when someone may be in a vulnerable situation.

Steve Brogden of British Gas talked about how utilities customers can be vulnerable to falling victim to scams and how service providers can support customers to avoid falling victim.

Daniel Bowling of the Information Commissioner’s Office talked about how providers can identify potentially vulnerable customers while remaining compliant with data protection legislation.

Delegate feedback

Delegates reported developing a greater understanding of financial vulnerability and said they were able to take away practical insights to help recognise and address consumers in financially vulnerable circumstances.

One delegate, speaking on the actionable insights for their organisation, said: “I gained valuable insight which will help to facilitate our debt policy for vulnerable customers.”

Another remarked: “Some really useful information from all of the speakers that I'm sure we will be able to use to review what we do today and look for opportunities for improvement.”

Another reported: “I will be working with our training department and looking to implement some changes to our processes regarding ability to pay; how we recognise this and how we support.”

When asked to summarise the day, delegates reflected on the opportunity for cross-organisational working to share experiences and discuss a consistent approach to tackling the issue of financial vulnerability.

One delegate wrote: “Great day, very informative and great to see what other companies are doing differently.”

Another stated: “It's great to hear what other organisations are doing in this field; the pitfalls and the opportunities to improve.”

Another said: “The speakers were really informative and networking opportunities fantastic.”

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Get in touch

Ombudsman Services vulnerability workshops were launched in response to changes introduced by Ofcom on 1 October 2018, which placed a requirement on communications providers to have clear, effective policies and procedures in place for identifying vulnerable customers.

As a member of the ombudsman scheme and provider in the communication sector, if you are interested in attending a future workshop, please email OSAccountManagers@Ombudsman-Services.org

Spaces are limited but we will always try to accommodate attendees wherever possible.