More than half (52%) of people feel there is a negative stigma attached to asking for help if they fall into debt, according to new research.
It found that 59% of customers attribute this debt stigma to societal stereotyping and their own feelings of shame, embarrassment or inadequacy. A further 36% blame the practices used by their service providers for making them feel that way and the remainder stated it was a combination of both factors.
Those respondents who felt that service providers were at fault highlighted a tendency for advisors to be ‘offhand’ or ‘aggressive’ in their communication; often making assumptions about the customer’s background or why they had fallen into debt.
Furthermore, when asked whether (throughout the debt recovery process) customers felt valued by their service provider, a worrying picture emerged. Only a quarter (25%) of customers felt valued, while 60% of people said that they did not feel valued as a customer – a figure which has jumped up by 12% since similar research was undertaken in 2016.
Monica Mackintosh, customer services director at Echo Managed Services, said: “Understandably, falling behind on payments can be a very stressful time, so it is concerning that so many people may feel too embarrassed to ask for help; something which may further compound the issue. Debt affects a huge cross-section of people, for many different reasons, so it’s crucial that service providers work hard to understand the issues of every single individual and help them to find a balanced resolution.
“The findings also highlight just how important it is for organisations to stand out as approachable and helpful. Ensuring all communications convey this is vital; across verbal and written contact, as well as the general tone of information available on a company’s website. Reflecting on current practice and being more customer-centric can help organisations to both minimise customer debt and its effect on their reputation”