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Telcos Need More Empathy For Customers In Hardship: TIO

Telcos are being urged to have more flexibility and empathy for customers suffering financial hardship in a new report from the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.

The report, Responding to consumers in financial hardship, is the result of an investigation into data from more than 8000 financial hardship complaints received between July 2018 and March 2021, most of which were from consumers saying they were financially vulnerable and/or their providers were not doing enough to support them.

Judi Jones, TIO.

According to Ombudsman Judi Jones, the shame or stigma around financial hardship can prevent consumers from asking for help.

“Empathy can make the conversation easier. One provider said it trained staff to build rapport and trust with vulnerable consumers. Once this trust is in place, the provider can then ask questions and begin offering further guidance and support.

“Being proactive in identifying hardship and being flexible with payment plans can be the early course correction that can help minimise harm for consumers and increase the likelihood of telcos being paid,” she said.

The report recommends telcos implement accessible, proactive, and timely assistance for financial hardship; pursue effective arrangements that acknowledge individuals’ circumstances; accurately record and apply payment plans; and regularly engage with customers for better outcomes.

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