The Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Money Advice Trust have created a number of drills which act as a guide to working with vulnerable clients - and one is called TEXAS.
Its five simple steps take you through a conversation about vulnerability in a sensitive, fair and legal manner.
So if a customer divulges something sensitive (for instance living with the early stages of dementia, or facing bereavement):
Thank the customer and confirm that knowing this will ensure you manage their situation sensitively and appropriately;
Explain how the information will be used to fulfil your legal requirement on using this data (for example, we will only provide this information to people likely to interact with them in the processing of their policy);
EXplicit consent needs to be obtained to hold and use this data (again a legal requirement). Without this you may not for instance record ‘customer has mild dementia’;
Ask up to three key questions to better understand the situation. These could be 1). How does your situation make it difficult to manage your finances? 2). How does the situation affect how you are able to communicate with us (this may or may not be obvious - for instance if the customer is profoundly deaf/sight impaired or living with a terminal illness)? 3). Do you have anyone to help you manage your finances such as a relative, carer or solicitor?
Signpost to internal or external help where appropriate. For instance: to a debt advice service if the customer has lost control of their finances; to bereavement counselling if they are not coping well with the loss of a partner or other loved one; to Samaritans (free phone 116 123) if they are in despair or referencing suicide.
How TEXAS can work in practice
By adopting TEXAS, we at Zurich were able to identify a client living with the early onset of Alzheimer's disease and struggling with recent memory recall. We were able to obtain his permission to note his condition in our records, and this information will assist our future communications. Should this become too difficult, we have noted that his wife is on hand to assist where necessary.
Embedding this process into your day-to-day activities will ensure a consistent and compliant approach that is in customers' best interests. TEXAS will ensure GDPR compliance since explicit consent has been requested, both verbally and where calls are recorded electronically.
If you don't get that explicit consent to record the information, but you record it nonetheless, you may find yourselves faced with data protection issues, especially if a subject access request is raised.
As in all things though it's a matter of balance. Don't let this get in the way of the moment if it does not feel the right time to explore. It needs to feel natural rather than forced and this may need coaching and practice to ensure it does not feel tacked on to the end of a conversation.
It is hoped, however, that this process will make it easier to unobtrusively ask questions that would otherwise feel invasive or awkward. Listening for signs of vulnerability and then using the TEXAS drill may put the customer at ease in divulging or expanding on information when they know you will use the information to ensure the best possible outcome. Good luck.
This content was produced in partnership with the Zurich Community Trust. In this next article we will look at spotting big emotions when dealing with clients.