Vulnerable customer and ‘hard to reach’ research is a requirement that more and more insight and market research managers need to address as part of their roles. Not only are regulators looking for organisations to demonstrate that they are inclusive, but there is huge value in businesses being more effective in their engagement with those who are in debt or utilising services inefficiently. It is notable that ‘Supporting the vulnerable customer’ is a key heading in the Building Societies Annual Conference in May next year. Understanding how to engage with vulnerable customers should be central to your insights strategy.
Vulnerable customers are often identified as those with long or short term illness, those living with disabilities or in poverty, and also customers who are elderly. More recently the definition of vulnerable customer has extended to hard to reach customers and seldom heard groups. As a financial institution you need to be clear on how to engage with vulnerable and hard to reach customers to ensure your research is representative.
Hard to reach groups will differ depending on the organisation and the products and services which are offered, but can include:
– Non-English speakers
– Those who are in severe debt
– Those who have suffered a mental illness or struggle socially
– Individuals who have a drug or alcohol addiction
– Younger people who are not in education or employment
– Elderly who live alone and don’t have family or friend
There are many reasons why it is important for you to be able to reach out to audiences that can be more difficult to engage with. This can be from a socially responsible point of view, or to reduce inefficiencies. However, as the term suggests – ‘hard to reach’ is exactly that, so having the right approach is vital.
So how can your organisation grow relationships with those where there are perhaps more barriers in place that will allow them to do this?
Due to the complexity and diversity of the hard to reach customer, a one size fits all approach will not work in research. Careful thought and consideration as to how these groups can be engaged with is crucial. Below are just three important factors which need to be deliberated when putting in place research and engagement with hard to reach and vulnerable groups:
For example, there is little point in using technical jargon or business speak when engaging with a group of 16 year olds. This may seem obvious; however it is surprising how difficult it is to get a specific point across without making use of industry specific terms. This is very common in the healthcare sector for instance.
Tone is different to language, as it goes beyond the actual words used in any communications, whether a discussion guide, questionnaire, online survey or promotional material used to engage for the research. Tone should be adopted for the audience. Having a moderator in place that is able to adapt to the audience is vital. For questionnaires, more visuals can be used. There are lots of creative ways in which you can communicate with your respondents, to make them feel at ease and more willing to open up and participate.
Methodology and selection
Usually a methodology is largely selected on the type of insight that is required. Methods such as attending pre-arranged groups or community sessions are an extremely useful way to engage with the hard to reach. Not only are you going to them, they are also in their own environment so will naturally feel more comfortable and more willing to participate. Online communities which already have a specific audience type are a great way to engage with groups. Explain specialise in online communities and can design the community to be representative of all customers, including segmenting by certain profile types; for example, an online community made up of people who have a disability, or who care for those who do. It is an excellent way to carry out a range of qualitative or quantitative research.
Our team at Explain Market Research are experts at putting in place research programmes with vulnerable customers and those who are hard to reach.
Contact us today to find out more, and download our accompanying infographic resource below.