Whittaker’s Estate Agents are an independent family estate agency based in Harwood, covering Bolton and Bury areas.

We believe in ensuring that customers in vulnerable circumstances are treated not only fairly, but with empathy and sensitivity to their condition. This may take many guises from : bereavement, illness, illiteracy, language barriers, disability or other impairments. Vulnerable customers are those who need additional assistance at some point in order to avoid detriment financially or psychologically. Whittaker’s Estate Agents process designed to “treat clients fairly” and in pursuit of this policy we will take action to ;

Identify Vulnerability

Sometimes this would be obvious i.e. visually impaired, hard of hearing, language difficulties, customer may appear upset or tell you about their condition.

Other times vulnerability may be harder to detect therefore the following is not a comprehensive list but some typical signs to look out for ;

  • They ask you to speak up or speak more slowly
  • Unable to read and understand the information they provided with, and asking for it to be continually repeated.
  • Responding in an irrational way to simple questions
  • Asking irrelevant and unrelated questions, or displaying signs of forgetfulness
  • Do they keep repeating themselves
  • Taking a long time or displaying difficulty in responding to simple questions or requests for information
  • Saying “yes” or “no” at times that it is clear they haven’t understood
  • Wandering off the subject at hand and making irrelevant statements
  • Saying “I don’t usually do things like this , my (husband / wife / son / daughter) takes care of it for me”
  • Can they hear the complete conversation or are they missing important bits
  • Displaying signs of ill health, breathlessness or destress
  • Indicating in any way that they are feeling rushed, flustered or experiencing a stressful situation

When Dealing with Vulnerable Customers

Whittaker’s Estate Agents take a proactive approach and prepare all staff to identify, support and provide solutions for vulnerable customers. A “one size fit’s all” approach doesn’t work ! Establishing “Good Practice” is essentially about delivering flexible tailored levels of care relevant to each individual’s needs.

In practice when dealing with vulnerable customers our staff will ;

  • Aim to speak clearly
  • Aim to be patient / empathise / listen carefully
  • Don’t rush them – they may need time to think / compose themselves
  • Aim to guide conversations to keep ‘on topic’
  • Aim to give the customer time to fully explain and not interrupt or show impatience?
  • Aim to repeat anything that is not understood, asking “is there anything you’d like me to explain ? “
  • Aim to ask the customer to explain to you what they understand the agreement to be
  • Aim to explicitly and clearly confirm all the important information
  • not to assume that the customer is sighted or literate – they may be unable to read details or small print
  • not to assume that the customer can hear everything you say - they may be have an hearing impairment or rely on lip reading
  • Ask the customer if they understand the consequences of making, or not making this decision
  • Remember that vulnerable consumers can sometimes be forgetful or overly trusting
  • Ask the customer if they need to discuss this with anyone else and make it easy for a friend or family member to help
  • Ask the customer if they want to think about things or take advise before making a decision
  • Make sure that the customer is not flustered, agitated or in an emotional state when they make a decision