Frances Borrer

CSR Manager

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Taking a different approach to better serve vulnerable customers via digital communication

Colleagues from across Legal & General recently met with 'critical friends' from homelessness charity, Shelter and older people organisation, Elderly Accommodation Counsel (EAC) to review our approach to digital communications and vulnerable customers.

The aim of the workshop was to look at channels like email, social media, and live chat and to assess their appropriateness for customers who are vulnerable or potentially vulnerable. Key questions that the team wanted to answer were “How can we better serve our customers through these channels”?

The ‘critical friends’ we invited for the session were a team from Shelter: Terrie Jackson - Helpline team leader, William Byles – strategic account manager, Stuart Moore - Head of telephone and online advice services and from Elderly Accommodation Counsel, John Galvin - Chief Executive.

Sarah Cook, social media manager, said, “This was a unique opportunity to learn from organisations that help vulnerable people via online channels every day.”

Elderly Accommodation Counsel is a national charity that aims to help older people make informed choices about meeting their housing and care needs. They have a team of 6 who take 3000 calls a year and support 52% of clients not over the phone but by electronic media (email / live chat / apps). Their website reaches 4 million individuals and covers a broad spectrum of issues facing the rising older population (home help, care, housing etc.).

Shelter helps millions of people every year struggling with bad housing or homelessness through their advice, support and legal services. Shelter responded to 5 million requests for advice last year. They launched web chat support in April 2015 and find they can help people more quickly on this channel – with the average call time being 24 minutes and the average web chat 12 minutes. They have had 30,000 web chats in the last 18 months and are keen to grow this advice channel – switching off their email support at the end of this year.

Topics discussed were: how we deal with the challenge of a 24/7 online environment, how we take conversations from online to voice channels (when we need to) and what an ideal set of guiding principles for online communications might look from the ’critical friends’ perspective.

As a group we gained valuable insight into how other organisations respond to these challenges, how they measure success and how they deliver valuable support to vulnerable people with limited resources.

Some Thoughts From Our ‘critical Friends’:

“The definition of “vulnerable” can be as simple as “I haven’t been here before” or that someone is facing an unfamiliar situation. Ultimately, it’s difficult to tell if people have vulnerabilities – particular via online channels – so all responses have to be robust.” - John Galvin - Chief Executive – Elderly Accommodation Counsel

“We recognise that the way that we present information has got to change: people don’t want to and often can’t wade through pages with 2000 words on anymore. We have decided offering choice is the best approach………give customers different ways to interact and don’t force them down one particular channel.” - Stuart Moore - Head of telephone and online advice services – Shelter

The team will be working with Shelter and EAC to work up guiding principles for colleagues helping customers via digital channels – and are also progressing other ideas from the session like safeguarding processes and pre-prepared shortcuts to use as responses.

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