Mail proves godsend for vulnerable during pandemic

direct mail n2Consumer campaign group Keep Me Posted, spearheaded by industry champion Judith Donovan, is ramping up its fight for organisations to give vulnerable consumers the choice to receive communications by mail, on the back of a new study which shows how physical mailings have benefited consumers during the Covid pandemic.

Founded in 2013, Keep Me Posted battles to ensure everyone has the right to choose paper bills and statements without penalty.

The partnership of representatives of over 125 concerned organisations such as Age UK, Scope, Mencap, the Institute of Consumer Affairs and Moneysavingexpert.com, aims to ensure banks, councils, utility companies and telecoms providers give their customers a choice in how they receive communications.

It argues that 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 bills and statements.

The new report, published by the DMA and titled Multichannel Guidance for Customers in Vulnerable Circumstances, reveals that, 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 email 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 email 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.

The report adds: “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, strongly believes mail is a vital channel of communication for people in vulnerable circumstances.

She added: “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’s 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.

“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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