How creditors can deliver unrivalled customer experience to consumers in vulnerable situations

by Caroline Williams - Senior Marketing Manager
| minute read

In today's ever-evolving financial landscape, understanding and meeting consumer expectations is more crucial than ever.

We wanted to get a true understanding of what consumers want from creditors, including banks, building societies, utilities, retailers and government so we commissioned a survey into the preferences and attitudes of consumers and their debts. The research involved a representative survey of 1,027 UK consumers which has shed light on a significant gap between what consumers expect from creditors and the reality they experience. This gap is especially pronounced for consumers in vulnerable situations.

For creditors, closing this gap is essential for customer retention, loyalty, improved debt recovery rates, and delivering good customer outcomes.

Let's explore the key findings from this research and the actions creditors can take to enhance their customer experience (CX).

Consumers demand flexibility when making repayments

Our research revealed that 69% of consumers prefer to make monthly debt repayments, aligning with the typical monthly employment pay cycle, making budgeting easier.

Fixed payments were preferred by most people (50%), however 27% of respondents expressed a desire for flexibility in their repayment schedules, preferring variable repayments based on affordability or demand. This may be due to a prevalence of self-employment, gig economy jobs, fixed-term contracts and seasonal work resulting in individuals experiencing fluctuating income throughout the year.

We also discovered that the lower the social grade of the respondent, the more people prefer flexible repayment for their debt. Lower paid jobs tend to offer less job security, therefore people in such roles would be likely to prefer flexibility in repayments.

When asked about whether they would welcome the ability to spread the cost of any missed payments, 79% of people said they would. This shows that consumers are looking to take more control over their finances and have more influence on when and how repayments are made.

Creditor action

Creditors should incorporate flexibility into their repayment models to cater to changing consumer demands. By offering flexible repayment options, creditors can attract more customers and provide a better customer experience, thereby delivering better customer outcomes. Robust systems are needed to facilitate fluctuating repayments, accommodating the unpredictable nature of consumer income.

Identifying people in more vulnerable employment would be useful in assessing someone’s affordability and for providing the level of support and flexibility that they would need.

Polarisation of consumer demand for advice

As people look to take more control over their finances, we were keen to find out how much consumers rely on their banks and building societies for advice and guidance.

When it comes to financial advice, 76% of respondents welcomed some level of support from their banks or building societies. 47% of respondents said that they would welcome advice but ‘not too often’. Therefore, it’s important that creditors adapt their messages depending on the preferences of the customer. By understanding consumer preferences, they can deliver personalised communication not only with the most relevant information, but at a frequency that most suits their needs. However, only 4% reported always receiving a personalised service, highlighting a significant gap between demand and provision.

Creditor action

Creditors must use data and analytics to understand consumer preferences and deliver personalised communications and support. Financial advice should be relevant, personal, and non-intrusive, tailored to the individual's unique circumstances. By investing in data and analytics, creditors can develop insights that create personalised and relevant messaging, earning customer trust and loyalty.

Creditors can’t rely on self-diagnosis of vulnerability

With customer centricity, mental health and vulnerability at the forefront of many organisations’ minds, it’s critical that creditors fully understand their customers and identify vulnerable situations as soon as possible. This will enable creditors to provide a personalised and supportive service, delivering good customer outcomes and treating customers fairly.

A surprising finding from our survey was that while 73% of respondents did not consider themselves to have been in a vulnerable situation in the past 12 months, 48% had experienced at least one specific vulnerable situation. There is clearly a lack of understanding amongst consumers of what is considered a vulnerable situation, and this discrepancy highlights the unreliability of self-diagnosis.

We also asked respondents who had been in financial difficulty in the past five years whether their bank had shown them compassion. An incredible 59% answered either ‘not really’ or ‘not at all’. Understanding individual customers and their bespoke needs is a great starting point to be able to deliver good customer outcomes.

Creditor action

Creditors need comprehensive assessment tools to accurately diagnose vulnerability. Sopra Steria’s Support Point is a digital tool designed to find relevant help for customers who are struggling with financial, health and emotional vulnerabilities. It can help by prompting customers to answer questions about their circumstances and providing relevant support options. This approach ensures that customer service teams can show compassion and provide support when it matters most, based on accurate and timely data.

Robust data capture is needed for a true omnichannel service

Sometimes people will miss one or more payments for their debt - this could be for a variety of reasons. When they do so, they’re contacted by their creditor with information about the missed payment, next steps and any fees.

When asked how they would prefer to be asked about a missed payment most respondents preferred to be asked via email with only 7% not wanting to be contacted using this method.

Our research underscores the importance of omnichannel communication in meeting consumer preferences especially across different age groups. While 36% of respondents preferred contact by letter, younger consumers leaned towards digital methods like email and text.

Creditor action

With five or more generations in the financial lifecycle at once, there has never been a more varied customer base than now.

An understanding of the individual customer and their preferences, coupled with an omnichannel approach to customer communications is key. By leveraging technology, creditors can create systems that facilitate a streamlined, flexible, and customer-focused approach to debt management.


The findings from our research indicate a significant demand for improved customer experience in debt management. To address these needs, creditors must focus on three main areas: omnichannel communication, personalisation, and flexibility. By investing in technology, data, and analytics, creditors can better understand and support their customers, leading to improved customer satisfaction and better financial outcomes.

For creditors ready to make these necessary changes, the opportunities are significant. Improved customer retention and loyalty, better debt recovery rates, and delivery of good customer outcomes are just a few of the potential benefits. By taking action now, creditors can transform their approach to debt management and create a customer experience that truly meets the needs of today’s consumers.

At Sopra Steria, we have the expertise and technology to support creditors in delivering exceptional customer experiences. Contact us today to find out how we can help you transform your debt management approach and deliver unrivalled customer experiences.

Explore our full whitepaper on how creditors can deliver unrivalled CX to consumers in vulnerable situations here.




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