Why call quality should be top of mind when talking with vulnerable people

Contact centres deal with people from a diverse range of backgrounds, education, ability and understanding. It might not always be apparent when talking with a customer that they are having difficulty in a way that could impact their ability to make informed decisions…

Let’s look at who these people are, how conversations might be affected and what to do about it.

Who are vulnerable people

In contact centre communication, people who have a vulnerability can be classed as anyone who may be experiencing difficulties with the conversation, that the agent should be aware of, so that they can look at ways to address these issues.

People in this category will include customers who have:

  • a diagnosed condition, such as dementia
  • an undiagnosed or temporary mental health condition, such as anxiety
  • learning difficulties or literacy issues
  • hearing issues
  • problems understanding language.

How this affects contact centres

Not only is it important for the quality of the call to deal with vulnerable people in an effective way, but laws about discrimination also mean that when a contact centre identifies that a customer has a disability, they must make reasonable adjustments to accommodate them.

In addition, agents like to be able to help customers, they find it difficult too if they can’t effectively communicate with their customers or if they cannot do their best job because of poor quality. When they encounter instances when the customer is having issues with understanding the conversation, can be frustrating to the agent if they do not have the knowledge, tools or help available to address these issues.

There are guidelines available that make suggestions of how to deal with vulnerable customers over the telephone, such as CX Today’s article on ‘How to Identify and Support Vulnerable Customers (How to Identify and Support Vulnerable Customers – CX Today) from this, a contact centre can create their own policy of how to deal with vulnerable customers. If they do not have provision in place to handle calls from vulnerable customers, then negative issues could damage the company reputation or lead to damaging miscommunications with the customer.

How to identify your customer’s communications needs

It is advisable that contact centres offer their staff training on how to identify needs of vulnerable callers. Advice on identifying vulnerable customers includes looking for signs such as:

  • the customer asks you to speak up or speak more slowly
  • that the customer appears confused
  • the customer takes a long time to answer questions
  • the customer says that a third party usually deals with things on their behalf
  • there is a language barrier to communications.


There are protocols available such as CARE and BRUCE that agents can use to build a picture around what vulnerabilities a customer might have. CARE looks at the customers’ ability to Comprehend, Assess, Retain and Evaluate information, whereas BRUCE focuses on Behaviour and Talk, Remembering, Understanding and Communication, and Evaluation.

Provision for vulnerable customers from contact centre IT

Clarity is key when dealing with vulnerable customers. They need to clearly hear and understand what is being discussed. Call center operatives must ensure that they enunciate properly and speak at a relaxed pace, and any issues with call quality at this stage will hamper the ability to communicate clearly with their customer. Before other tools and solutions are looked to, to help communicate with vulnerable people, step number one should be to ensure that the call quality is as high as possible. This is where Nectar can help with our range of call quality monitoring tools.

A best practice is to allocate a manager to deal with complaints from or about vulnerable customers. When a problem occurs, there should be a system in place to listen to the call and identify what issues occurred and how to rectify these for the future. It is, therefore, important that you have a good call monitoring and recording system in place so that any reported issues can be investigated thoroughly.

Another recommendation is that when dealing with a customer that you have identified as potentially vulnerable, is to have a post-call communications quality assessment. In this assessment, the advisor can provide feedback on how they felt the call went, whether they felt that the customer fully understood everything and any call quality issues that hampered communication, to assess quality of the communication achieved.

How Nectar can help

Nectar DXP offers a range of call quality monitoring and recording features that make dealing with vulnerable people, easier to identify and work with. Nectar DXP can help identify call quality issues, no matter where they are coming from, and allowing them to be quickly fixed by using the easy-to-use dashboard and see all up how the call went.

For a full breakdown of how Nectar can help you manage your call quality to help support your most vulnerable customers, contact us today.