Image of an older couple looking at their finances and feeling vulnerable

CX technology for supporting the UK’s most vulnerable customers


As the cost of living increases, so do the numbers and needs of vulnerable customers. When choosing CX technologies to support these customers, what key features should contact centre leaders and their IT partners be looking for?

A young man with Downs-Syndrome is using a mobile phoneTraditionally, contact centre involvement with “customer vulnerability” has been limited. But today’s definitions and perceptions of “customer vulnerability” have expanded, as encapsulated in the recent HGS blog “CX trends and advice for inflationary periods,” to include those exposed to (perhaps temporarily) uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure from current events, such as job insecurity, increased cost of living, pandemic recovery, and worldwide conflicts.

As we all know, change is continuous — and for the most part unpredictable — which perfectly summarises the changes to data governance and compliance that UK technology teams needed to adopt rapidly post- pandemic and Brexit. Practically overnight, digital delivery within HGS UK needed to be reinvented with both innovation and compliance as priorities.

As a result, the HGS digital team in the UK has created a “technology arc” to meet the needs of our UK clients and their customers/citizens, including those most vulnerable. At a time when clients depend most on HGS UK, we want our technology offering to feature choice and to not pigeon-hole our clients within mandatory, singular, siloed technology vendors/stacks.

What is the HGS UK technology arc?

The HGS UK technology arc informs our digital strategy as a tool/platform matrix, an IT maturity model, and a visual, strategic IT roadmap all in one.

HGS UK has created a proven, continuously improving, general technology arc that meets most client needs. Using this “template arc” as a starting point, we work with clients to customise the elements, budgets, and timeframes to match their current and anticipated needs. The arc means that, when we start collaborating with clients to improve their CX technology, we are not starting with a blank slate.

The arc hones in on the CX technology stack as well as the needs of the customers and intersection points with other common enterprise systems. It is designed to unite and focus IT and CX teams – both in-house and contracted staff — so we are all working to achieve the same goals.

The arc includes CX technology stacks crafted from leading vendors and system integrators. Any offerings from specific IT partners included in the arc have undergone our rigorous scrutiny from a CX perspective.

Technologies are applied only if they truly meet both clients’ and their customers’ needs. HGS UK is platform agnostic and will never promote an offering that does not support goal achievement.

In this way, the HGS technology arc considers the needs of everyday, VIP, and vulnerable customers and the advisers that serve them.

As part of the technology arc, HGS UK has continued to announce key partnerships. In October 2022, HGS announced a partnership with MaxContact. With the news media reporting vulnerability as a primary concern for the service industry, highlighting the work undertaken with MaxContact, an award-winning inbound, outbound, and omnichannel customer engagement platform, seems especially timely.

MaxContact has differentiated itself as a UK technology provider for customer and employee — internal and external — engagement.

This type of partnership works well for HGS clients, as they can trust that HGS will provide a top-notch team that knows intrinsically how to make the most of a platform like MaxContact.

It also means clients can trust that people are well taken care of.

Supporting vulnerable customers well means supporting your contact centre advisers well, including with technology

Selecting MaxContact as a key platform to serve next-generation contact centres was made easier because features and functionality are completely in tune with how to effectively manage people-oriented operations.

Stressed contact centre agent

The MaxContact design includes built-in, well-timed, and positive work interruptions. A series of randomised, well-being reminders pop-up on screen throughout the day to assist advisers with their overall physical and mental health.

Reminders highlight the importance of screen-time breaks, hydration, stretching, stress management, and breathing techniques to ensure team wellness is at the forefront. Lucid, happy advisers are better able to sustain their attention to detail, empathy, and a creative approach to problem-solving, all of which are essential skills and attitudes for interacting with high-needs customers.

Supporting vulnerable customers means remaining flexible with metrics

When it comes to working with challenged customers, basic spreadsheets may not reveal the whole story. Visual, operational, interactive contact centre and customer dashboards should be considered in the overarching approach to improving the customer experience for the vulnerable.

Struggling customers must not be rushed whilst sharing their concerns. So, key metrics such as AHT (average handle time) and ASA (average speed to answer) may need to be relaxed.

Adjusting time-sensitive metrics and SLA priorities means that advisers can take longer to exhaust all options with the customer. 360-degree analytics enable to leaders to successfully monitor and manage sensitive conversations to retain valuable customers who are vulnerable now but who may not be in the future.

The MaxContact quality assurance module enables team leaders to actively access all recordings and, with filters that can be configured, to adopt the criteria selected within CRM/case management systems. The act of listening to interactions both post- and live/during-contacts is as much about supporting our HGS advisers, as it is about supporting our clients and their customers.

With real-time, live support during an adviser’s interaction, a team leader can listen-in, offer guidance or, if required, hijack the interaction and take control. HGS understands that to best support our clients’ customers — including those most vulnerable — we need to ensure that advisers possess the right aptitude, attitude, tools, and skills, which all come down to supporting people by their individuality.

Our quality analyst consistency and accuracy includes HGS enabling collaborative quality scoring. This type of holistic measuring ensures that processes and advisers’ performance aligns with the real business initiatives in the modern omnichannel enterprise. This approach to measuring adviser performance with continuous feedback means that areas of improvement are always specific to current working environments.

Making conversational quality expectations clearer and ensuring active quality management (QM) with flexible technology improves psychological safety (a term associated with mental well-being) where the adviser trusts that their organisation is relevant, listening, and looking out for the individual’s growth and development.

HGS continually assesses and benchmarks the market for best-in-breed, possible improvements to monitor conversational quality — including voice analytics.

Supporting vulnerable customers means integrating with other systems

Advisers serving vulnerable customers need flexibility, autonomy, relationships beyond the contact centre, and an understanding of the wider organisation and market to find solutions for vulnerable customers’ problems.

Advisers need to be able to look up details, investigate options, and gain the approvals to communicate extraordinary offers and make amends.

The empowered adviser serving more complex customers may need access to a wider range of systems than a typical adviser. MaxContact enables easy integration with other CRMs, financial systems, infrastructure, and more.

Vulnerable customers may be reluctant to admit they have special needs. Speech-to-text analytics and natural language processing can be integrated with MaxContact and configured to flag/highlight keywords that indicate an adviser is working with a vulnerable customer.

Technology can detect any keyword (e.g., “help,” “debt,” “trouble,” “hungry”) whilst sentiment analytics can encapsulate emotions through pitch, tone, and pace to inform the adviser that this customer may need extra support.

This identification ensures that contact centre leaders can use data to assess volumes and develop programmes that match the real needs of their customer base.

Further integrations from MaxContact via OpenAPI enables integrations to partners throughout the HGS-client ecosystem. Factoring translation, localization, and language needs and accessibility tools for those without WebRTC-based communications would be dependent on hardware ONLY to help assist with visual/audio challenges.

Supporting vulnerable customers means offering omnichannel support

Traditional contact centre channels may not work for vulnerable customers. It’s important to make sure they have choices to communicate discreetly.

a blind man using a digital deviceChannels such as webchat, direct messages through social media (social customer care), or WhatsApp may give your customers a more convenient, comfortable way to interact, limiting the risk of friends or colleagues overhearing personal information. However, with digitally vulnerable customers, they still need a form of communication that works for them. What if they don’t have regular access to a phone or computer? At HGS, we’ve even had our clients’ customers unexpectedly arrive at our office reception desks!

Organisations interacting with vulnerable customers need to examine and perhaps expand their methods of supporting customers. They need to look at an “opti-channel” approach rather than “omnichannel”. Yes, all channels can be turned on, but which channels provide the optimum service for your customers and the way you have designed your operation?

HGS and MaxContact already have risen to the occasion twice – and we’re just getting started

The pandemic and cost-of-living crisis have put the squeeze on both companies and their customers. Together, HGS and MaxContact have helped two UK-based organisations, in different sectors, to respond against external environmental factors in a short space of time.

UK sports event client wanted to make nervous customers feel welcome post-pandemic

Together, we have secured peace-of-mind for a world-renowned sporting tournament client in the UK. The tournament one year before had been plagued with COVID-19 obstacles. So, the 2022 tournament had to imbue attendees/customers with the confidence that they are a priority. Our simple, elegant implementation of CX technology enabled the seamless launch of a next-level CX within a two-week launch window. Although the project had an incredibly short ramp time, HGS created and delivered specialised training to enable advisers with rapid system familiarity. As a result, this UK-hosted sporting event ensured advisers were immediately responding to clients using the intuitive interface. This platform renders a real-time operational dashboard so that operations without intense training could naturally work with a snapshot of metrics across all advisers and manage this effectively.

UKHSA needed to ramp up quickly to support all citizens at a time of concern

In parallel, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) required new technology service delivery to support citizens with vital health support information. The setup of the national flu vaccination programme led to HGS working with MaxContact, AWS Amazon Connect, and NICE-in-Contact to stand up an integrated communications platform. The platform handled inbound/outbound traffic within an operational interface and reporting dashboard that integrated with artificial intelligence workforce management from NICE-in-Contact. This combination of partners and its technology ecosystem facilitated the launch of a national, fully operational, citizen support contact centre FASTER THAN EXPERIENCED WITH ANY OTHER PROVIDER. This CX technology stack meant that we could reach those most vulnerable reliably and QUICKLY.

The cost-of-living crisis and pandemic has forced contact centres to reevaluate their solution design for high-needs customers. Whilst many contact centre leaders have started to adjust the people aspects of their operations to accommodate the vulnerable, there is much more we can do to improve our systems to serve their digital/channel needs well.

Whilst some may view the need to cater to the vulnerable as a shorter term issue, the looming Baby Boomer population bulge may mean the need is rather a long-term one. Both an interim, short-term and long-term strategy – a technology arc – may be a logical next step.

Chris Sly

Christopher Sly, Head of Digital, HGS UK

If you would like to discuss how to choose the best CX software to support vulnerable customers interacting with your company or to explore how to create your own CX technology arc, please connect with Chris at christopher.sly@teamhgs.com

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