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New research into importance of mail for vulnerable consumers

Print Solutions Direct Mail Solutions

Consumer campaign group Keep Me Posted has welcomed new industry research into the impact that switching to digital communications has on vulnerable customers.

Keep Me Posted calls on organisations such as banks, councils, utility companies and telecoms providers to give their customers a choice in how they receive communications. This is especially important for vulnerable people, such as those with a disability, the elderly or people living in rural areas without broadband, who rely heavily on traditional mail for bill and statements.

The report, published by the Data and Marketing Association (DMA) and titled Multichannel Guidance for Customers in Vulnerable Circumstances, said throughout the pandemic, mail played an essential part in supporting vulnerable groups with services that improved their lives and empowered individuals.

It outlines how individual channels performed with the aim of giving a guide to best practice and creating a well balanced approach to customer communication.

The report cites 2019 figures from the Financial Conduct Authority that showed half of UK consumers – 24.1 million people – displayed one of more characteristics of potential vulnerability. As a result of the pandemic, this had risen to 27.7 million.

The aim of the guide is to explore how to support these customers in the most effective way.

It urges organisations to consider how vulnerable customers respond to communications. For example, if a consumer writes to a company, an e-mail or WhatsApp message is unlikely to be the most appropriate form of response.

Included in the report is a handy checklist of responses into how 11 different forms of communication including SMS, chatbots and e-mail performed when used by people with varying issues. The only channel that addressed every challenge – from being visually accessible to offering personalised content – was mail.

It added, ‘We strongly believe that vulnerable consumers require protection and that direct marketing is essential in supporting vulnerable groups with services and opportunities to empower them as individuals, improve their lives and bring about social change.’

Judith Donovan CBE, chair of the Keep Me Posted campaign, said mail was a vital channel of communication for people in vulnerable circumstances.

‘Many people prefer to receive and send information by post as they either don’t have the skills to respond online or have no access to a computer, printer, scanner or broadband. It is a relief when they don’t have to call on a family member or friend to help them upload or download attachments, and that a paper document is still available,’ she said.

‘We welcome these finding that clearly illustrate that mail is a vital tool when communicating with people in vulnerable circumstances.

‘Indeed, it is the only channel that meets every requirement on the DMA’s checklist, adding further weight to our argument that organisations should not charge customers extra for receiving paper bills and statements.’


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