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Only 4% contact centre staff claim they always know when they are speaking with a vulnerable person.*

Almost every company or organisation will have conversations with customers or supporters who find it difficult to make an informed decision about the choices offered to them when buying products or services or making a donation. Not all vulnerable circumstances are permanent. Many customers or supporters will face an unexpected short-term challenge in their lives which may place them in a vulnerable position for a period of time. For others, they will live with on-going challenges that will create transitory vulnerabilities – with the customer in and out of a vulnerable circumstance. Whether the vulnerable circumstance is permanent, short-term or transitory, it may disrupt the usual decision-making process.

The customer may need additional information or support or a different procedure to allow them to complete their decision making. The conversations may take place via a variety of communication channels from the telephone, through email and post to live chat and SMS or even face-to-face. Doing the right thing for your customers or supporters means giving customers in vulnerable circumstances proper consideration by assessing the reasonable adjustments your organisation can make to better support their needs.

Your organisation may need to communicate with consumers:

  • who have language or communication needs
  • who have a chronic illness or condition
  • who have mental health or neurological conditions
  • who are going through difficult life events that affect their decision-making capability or cause stress or anxiety
  • who may not recognise themselves as being in a vulnerable circumstance

Vulnerability Infographic 2

Vulnerability is a sensitive topic and when the DMA surveyed contact centre staff across a range of companies and organisations in 2014, only 4% of contact centre staff believed they always know when they are speaking to a vulnerable person. As a result, they believed they were not serving customer needs well or appropriately.

A 2017 report from Financial Conduct Authority found that 50% of UK consumers currently show one or more characteristics of potential vulnerability (25.6 million) – based on their health, financial resilience and capability and on life events that could be having a detrimental impact on them.

Having co-authored the DMA’s Vulnerable Consumer training materials, Elaine Lee, our Managing Director, is now running TRUST Masterclasses to enable organisations to recognise vulnerability and make reasonable adjustments. Each Masterclass carried out for our clients is bespoke to the organisation and prior to delivering the session to your team, Elaine will work with you to embed your organisational policies, procedures and protocols into the training materials to ensure that the training your teams receive reinforce and support the messages you have been delivering via other means.

You can choose from a suite of options including;

  • a half day introduction to understanding vulnerability
  • a full day workshop (which includes a practical session reviewing case studies from your organisation)
  • the train-the-trainer workshop
  • or a bespoke session to address your specific needs

If you are struggling to create your Vulnerable Customer Policy or Procedures, Elaine can help here too. As co-chair of the DMA’s Vulnerable Taskforce she has worked on the development of the DMA’s Internal and External Policy frameworks which guide organisations through the creation of policies. Elaine can bring these frameworks to life for you and support you in the creation of your own documents and processes.

Responsible marketers know how to recognise and respect customers in vulnerable circumstances and continue to service their needs for products, services and to make charitable donations. Excluding these customers is not an option, exclusion breaches the Equality Act and potentially isolate and make the vulnerable circumstance worse. Learn how your organisation can recognise and respect the needs of these customers and how and to share the information with your staff at these sessions run by Elaine.

Whilst the marketing focus is on customers, organisations should also remember that their workforce may be in vulnerable circumstances too. It’s estimated that lost productivity and performance through mental ill health costs UK businesses £42bn each year. All business leaders – not just our HR teams – are responsible for promoting wellbeing at work and supporting those staff members who are in need of additional support and reasonable adjustments at work.

Please contact Elaine if you would like to:

  • Better understand the term ‘vulnerability’ and how it can affect customers and employees
  • Understand alternatives to the concept of vulnerability
  • Appreciate that vulnerability is complex and changeable
  • Have tools to help you recognise vulnerability
  • Develop methods to help deal with vulnerability
  • Increase confidence and sensitivity towards vulnerability
  • Know more about essential facets of sensitive service
  • Become a champion for vulnerability in your organisation

  • Tackle real-life scenarios to understand how you can improve the service you deliver

To discuss your training needs or development of your Vulnerable Customer Policy, in more detail, please contact Elaine Lee, Managing Director,  elaine@reynoldsbusbylee.com

* Source: DMA survey, 2016
** Source: IOF Nov 216, Treating Donors Fairly Guide; FairMoney, 2017, SEE ARTICLE HERE
*** Source: Cancer Research UK, Cancer statistics for the UK, Accessed May 2017, SEE ARTICLE HERE



I most benefited by now understanding how to approach different vulnerabilities in different ways. I found the Masterclass especially helpful by personally experiencing some vulnerabilities.

Attended half day DMA Vulnerable Customer Masterclass October 2019


I really benefited from the facilitators' expertise and guidance - it is difficult to learn about vulnerability without a guide or someone to ask questions.

Attended DMA Vulnerable Customer Masterclass June 2019


Being in a financial difficulties team, this is something I do and will experience all the time, so being able to literally experience how some vulnerable customers live has definitely benefited me.

Olivia Edmonds, American Express


Hearing remarkable stats around the population makes you realise how important this subject is and role play makes it really hit home!

Attended DMA Vulnerable Customer Masterclass March 2019


Today's training was really engaging and I thought it was structured brilliantly in terms of information vs tasks/activities. The trainers were very warm and made me feel comfortable enough to share my opinions.

Attended DMA Vulnerable Customer Masterclass November 2018


In total we’ve run 7 sessions all over the country and trained almost 90 staff. The feedback has been excellent with all managers saying how easy it was to roll out, using your notes and slides, and the Telephone Fundraisers have commented on how much they’ve enjoyed the sessions and how well they’ve been able to pick it up and understand it. So, a big thanks from us!

Catherine Lloyd, RNIB


The workshop massively resonated with me and it's an area that I've grown increasingly passionate about over a number of years. The training itself added substance and credibility to areas I've focused on in my current role and previous roles, and it's really given me a boost of energy to make sure we apply and embed many of the themes covered during the session. The workshop itself was an effective blend of theoretical and practical approaches, all of which were relevant and applicable, and all of which I've applied to my ongoing training here. I've also mapped out the next 12 months of our Vulnerable Customer strategy and linked up with the charity team here to mesh together some of the planned projects in 2018, such as working with a local food bank and a homeless charity

Attended DMA Vulnerable Customer Workshop November 2017


We used ReynoldsBusbyLee & KMB to deliver Vulnerable People training to a range of our staff who work on the phone and in person with people who might be in vulnerable circumstances. This large cross-team group benefitted hugely from the day, sharing their experiences and gaining valuable tips about how to help, and how to help themselves, too.

Fiona Magor, Rethink


This training will definitely have an impact at our workplace. As a team we are all more aware of policies and circumstances from attending this training. We are able to listen to calls from agencies and watch mystery shop videos and spot situations that we may not have before.

Katy Reid, LEPRA


This training will help tailor our own training materials and the delivery of sessions to staff so they feel confident in managing difficult scenarios and have an effective support network.

Claire Robson, GOSH


This training will be helpful in revising our Vulnerable Person policy. It gave me new things to consider. As a result of the training I will aim to promote more consistency in our approach across our organisation and review the guidelines we give to agencies.

Holly Mackay, CATS Protection


This training will inform how we train our staff, inform our management and update our trustees. It will able me to give clearer guidelines for supporter care staff in relation to taking calls and recording data.

Vickie Gregory, WCRF


[I] feel more confident in dealing with vulnerable people on a day-to-day basis.

Graham Cannon, TPS