The cost-of-living crisis has been causing increasing alarm in Britain for months now. A fall in ‘real’ disposable income, is being caused by high inflation outdoing wage and benefit increases and has been further exacerbated by recent tax increases and is putting many in Britain in perilous financial straits. Financial Service companies must act responsibly to support their clients and employees considering this.
I will break down some of the steps that Financial Services professionals and companies should be taking to mitigate the effects of the crisis.
Regardless of what niche of Financial Services you find yourself in, customers need to understand that you are aware of the ongoing cost of living crisis and prepared and willing to provide help and information.
Financial Services firms should review their current modes of communication with clients to see if there is room for improvement. Companies should be thinking about how easy they are to contact and whether their customers feel encouraged to contact them.
A good starting point is to create web pages specifically relating to the cost-of-living crisis so that when customers search online, they would be directed to the right section of your website.
Communication leads us nicely to signposting, which is crucial to ensuring customers can find the information they need when it comes to the financial service they are looking for.
Especially in these times, firms should be training their staff to be able to signpost appropriate information to clients at the appropriate time. This may include external as well internal resources, such as Ofgem and Citizens Advice, when the concern of the client goes beyond the specific financial services that the firm offers.
To be able to deliver the support to customers, outlined above, a framework for responding to the cost-of-living crisis needs to be in operation. Firms should be regularly reviewing policy documents and now is a prescient time to be doing so. To be more efficient, firms should have a named individual in each department reviewing policy and processes in light of the cost-of-living crisis.
As with policy, training works best when it is regularly reviewed. However, with the current cost of living crisis the type of queries and issues staff, especially customer-facing staff, may be dealing with will be changing. Current training may not effectively equip staff with the knowledge and confidence to address new problems they may not have encountered in their professional roles. The content of the training itself may have to be updated in many Financial Services firms.
The cost-of-living crisis coincides with a time when many are still hybrid-working. With some people at home and others in the office, it is even more important that staff have up to date training.
As the cost-of-living crisis continues it develops as an emerging risk in the Financial Services. Collecting data on potential threats as well as customer data will help firms deliver the best service to their clients in challenging times. Reports can also be used to demonstrate to customers that the firm is doing all it can to provide support. The data collected will help to determine what customers need and allow senior management to be confident that customers are being treated well.
Finally, it is not just customers who will be impacted by the cost-of-living crisis. Financial Services professionals will also be under increased stress. Firms should consider their working culture and whether it is healthy, allowing staff to voice their concerns. Now is the right time to be signposting internal and external resources for support.
Training for managers on how the cost-of-living crisis may be affecting staff may improve the support non-managerial staff are receiving during this time. As always firms need to value their staff and continue to build an industry that is attractive to work in.