THE VULNERABLE CUSTOMER

Written by Lisa Rottmann for Buljan & Partners Consulting

THE VULNERABLE CUSTOMER

In this blog you’ll find ideas, support and references for exceeding your client’s expectations and consistently improving their experience. But what happens when customer experience theories fail? when the customer does not choose you? does not buy your products or services or simply doesn’t take them seriously? How can we exceed their expectations if they have a negative predisposition towards us and, due the pressure, they’re just not themselves?

We get queries from companies who tell us that traditional marketing has been ineffective and even detrimental to their image. While they understand that exceeding customer expectations is profitable and rewarding, they don’t believe that the theory is applicable to their reality. That reality is the world of companies and organizations that deal with “vulnerable customers”.

At some point in our lives we will all become vulnerable customers when we have to face painful, difficult and complex situations: being admitted to hospital, losing our autonomy when we can no longer live alone, facing life-altering situations that can change our future, depending on social assistance or suffering the loss of a loved one.

In places like hospitals, nursing homes, adult day care and funeral homes, emotions run high. Tension, despair, sadness, pain, relief, familiarity, ire, anger, guilt, confusion, loneliness and gratitude are just some of them. All these emotions are present in the minds of the customer who comes into contact with an employee.

In addition to the main source of anguish and pain, the vulnerable customer may also feel hurt by the way their situation was handled or how they were treated during the first 72 hours of the process. For example, this type of secondary harm can be caused by the cold and impersonal treatment they receive from the professionals taking care of them. The lack of clear information on the steps that must be taken or not knowing how to deal with certain situations.

Of course, the key to success for companies that deal with “vulnerable customers” is all about the corporate culture and the way in which their employees assume the role of supporting people in tremendously difficult, varied and unpredictable situations. We understand that in the lives of these professionals, every relationship, every situation and every environment is complex. They have been trained to keep a certain distance, to the extent possible, so that they are not affected by the customer’s experience. What we are seeing is that making vulnerable clients a priority gives meaning to their day-to-work and makes them feel good about themselves. The trick is that the treatment must apply to the particular customer and adapt his/her situation, emotions, memories or beliefs, which are as varied as the people themselves.

Most of the people who deal with vulnerable customers know them well and have a vocation for their chosen profession. We advise managers to give them a vote of confidence to assume responsibility and make decisions autonomously. The pride of giving back to society and the customers’ gratitude, combined with the employer’s vote of confidence, provides a strong foundation for giving their all every day and overcoming the difficult moments they spend with vulnerable customers. In the end, companies are really just PEOPLE helping PEOPLE.

Lisa Rottmann is Managing Consultant in Buljan & Partners Consulting. Lisa is expert in strategy consulting in Customer Experience transformation projects and technology.

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