Providing Extra Care: Identifying and Supporting Vulnerable Customers with CommBank


Finance is interwoven with our daily lives – from where we live, to how we maintain independence. It’s this interwoven nature that presents an overwhelming breadth of support that customers need from their bank in challenging circumstances.

Our guide empowers frontline staff to navigate difficult conversations and consistently offer appropriate support.

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  • More than half of Australia’s population bank with Commbank. Over their lives, there is a huge diversity of circumstances they may face - seeking refuge from an unsafe home, mental or physical health issues, problem gambling, and financial or other kinds of disadvantage. The Royal Commission drove new measures to ensure vulnerable customers’ needs are met, but this presented new problems in how to identify and support these needs. Customers' expectations vary greatly in the kind of support they believe is appropriate from their bank. This is challenging for staff to deal with the enquiries safely, efficiently and respectfully.

  • Together with frontline staff, customers with vulnerable experience and experts in the space, we designed an internal operating model for bank staff engaging with customers experiencing vulnerability. This was delivered as the Extra Care Guide - an interactive manual complete with scripting and appropriate next steps. The language used was tightly crafted with experts to allow disclosure of customers’ circumstance, but limit the detail required to provide assistance - preventing vicarious trauma. We developed ‘Extra Care’ accommodations ranging from internet/telephone banking instead of branch visits for customers with health issues — to practical steps in the case of immediate danger or coercion.

  • Information within reach. Placing customers on hold risks heightening customers emotions; now conversations are more natural and empathetic. Combining over 20 Standard Operating Procedures. Bounded respectful conversations. Revealed through user testing was the importance of solving the customers’ bank needs first, then offering extra care. Ensuring bankers remain bankers, not social workers. Greater emotional safety. Techniques to slow down the conversation, reassure customers as well as self-care for agents are within reach at all times. Live now. Currently in use across hundreds of staff - all Commbank, Bankwest and ASB frontline teams. Presently rolling out to scams and fraud specialist teams.

  • Increased emotional safety. “I get all flustered when someone mentions mental health, I don’t know what to say or do. I used to think - ‘I’m not a counsellor, I’m not equipped to deal with this. I don’t know what I can tell these people’. And I had a cry about that to my manager one time. [Now] It was easier to chat about these things when I’ve got [this guide] in front of me; it helps me to feel confident instead of umming and err-ing.” - Commbank phone agent Respectful and safe offers of help. “It took me two seconds to find the information I needed, whereas beforehand I would have fumbled around trying to find something or would not have offered help, having not known what we could offer. Here it was all in black and white.” - Commbank phone agent Time saved for staff and customer. “Previously we’d be wanting to help a customer, but to actually find the information for the services that we offer, and those outside the bank as well from third parties - just finding the information is difficult… You might spend 5 minutes just trying to find the information you’re actually after” - Commbank phone agent