Who is a vulnerable customer and how you can help

Who is a vulnerable customer and how you can help

The unique role Post Office branches play in communities across the UK means that a significant proportion of the customers coming through the doors of your branch may be vulnerable and might need extra support.

We know that branch staff deliver excellent service to all our customers, but knowing the best way to help vulnerable customers isn’t always clear. So we’ve brought together some resources from a number of charities and organisations which may help you support vulnerable customers in your branch.

Who is a vulnerable customer?

Post Office defines a vulnerable customer in its Vulnerable Customer Policy as ‘someone who, due to their personal circumstances, is more likely to require additional support to access the services provided by Post Office.’ So it is important that where possible we set up an environment to properly support them.

What does it mean for a customer?

Every customer is different and vulnerability covers a broad and diverse range of situations and circumstances, and a number of things can affect whether a customer is vulnerable. These include numeracy, literacy and IT skills, mental and physical health, physical disabilities and even their social situation such as loneliness and isolation.

Circumstances like these can make it difficult for customers to access products and services.

For example, a customer living with dementia might find it difficult to remember their pin number or have issues with language and communication, such as trouble remembering the right word or keeping up with a conversation.

But there are ways retailers can make it easier for vulnerable customers to access services.

How can retailers help?

Because there are so many reasons why a customer might be vulnerable, it’s not always easy to know how to best support people who are struggling, or who have hidden vulnerabilities.

Here are some resources, put together by some key charities and organisations that have been designed to help retailers understand and help their vulnerable customers.

  • Mental health: Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK experience mental health problems every year. If you feel a customer could benefit from further support, Mind have a number of guides explaining the support and services available here, including money and housing advice.
  • Customers with disabilities: The organisation behind Purple Tuesday (the world’s first accessible shopping day) ‘We Are Purple’ have a number of resources including this customer service guide. They aim to empower customer-facing colleagues who worry about unintentionally offending a disabled customer by saying the wrong thing.
  • Financial vulnerability: Some customers may find it difficult to manage their finances or be at risk of financial abuse, for example:
    • They may struggle to find the money to pay household bills which may lead to them taking poor financial decisions or developing debt problems, Step Change are the leading debt charity.
    • A customer’s partner, family, or carer could be controlling their finances or taking advantage of a situation. If you think a customer might be at risk of financial abuse, or that something unusual is going on with their money, UK Finance provide lots of resources and advice here.
  • Dementia: Alzheimer’s Society have worked with a number of retailers to put together a dementia friendly retail guide to help support customers – and colleagues – in store.

In the coming weeks we will look at some of the amazing work being done by Postmasters to support vulnerable customers in their communities and provide resources and tips on how to give the best possible experience to all customers, all while boosting the bottom line of your business. 

Got 5 minutes? Why not test your knowledge to see how well you know your customers?

Let us know how you support customers in your branch, or if you know someone who’s gone out of their way to help a customer or colleague. Sign in and leave a comment or email one@postoffice.co.uk  

And if you have any suggestions about how Post Office can better assist vulnerable customers please email Mo at the Vulnerable Customer Action Group team Mohammed.kamaly@postoffice.co.uk