Citizens Advice have carried out a benchmarking study into British Standard for inclusive service provision (BS 18477). Find the full report, titled Treating consumers fairly, here.
To accelerate the rate of uptake of the Standard and support companies’ endeavours to become more inclusive, Citizens Advice (Consumer Futures) commissioned independent research consultancy, Opinium Research LLP to conduct a benchmarking study of three organisations that are directly or closely linked to Citizens Advice and provide free help concerning advice and redress for energy consumers:
- the Citizens Advice consumer service (the consumer service)
- the Ombudsman Service: Energy
- the Extra Help Unit.
All three organisations operate towards the end of a consumer journey – they deal with the consequences of decisions (or indecisions) of other organisations or companies.
We believe that all companies’ key aims – particularly those companies providing essential goods and services – should include the provision of fair and flexible services to their consumers. We consider that the time has arrived for a transparent cultural shift whereby organisations:
- reframe their perspective
- change the way they think about consumers and their business
- build ‘long-term relationships’ with consumers; ‘earning their trust and then their business’, to become ‘social leaders’.
A more inclusive approach would benefit all consumers. It could particularly benefit those experiencing vulnerability, as well as improving organisations’ own brand, reputation and employee confidence and satisfaction. In turn, this would benefit society and the wider economy.
A demonstrable organisation-wide commitment to providing services that are fair and accessible to all underpinned all the examples of good practice. The experiences of these organisations suggest that developing a broad, flexible understanding of vulnerability and its impact on the consumer is the critical first step in becoming a fair, inclusive and accessible organisation.
But before an organisation can consider how it should respond to vulnerability, it must first ensure its staff can identify it. For the three participating organisations, training played a crucial role in ensuring that staff:
- can identify or elicit evidence of vulnerability and
- possess the necessary “soft” skills for dealing with consumers in such circumstances.