Why a bereavement process is crucial for UK firms

Not content with losing customers through its very public data hack last year, mobile giant, TalkTalk is now looking to repel new business through shoddy customer service. As reported in the Sunday Times at the weekend the organisation handled a sensitive issue with one of its elderly customers extremely badly. The pensioner in question tried to cancel her account because she had moved into a residential home and therefore no longer needed it. She wrote to the firm on two occasions sending her change of circumstance via recorded delivery. The account remained open. The elderly lady then suffered a stroke, so her daughter continued on her behalf, to no avail since TalkTalk insisted they only deal with the account holder. The customer sadly passed away and again the daughter contacted TalkTalk to inform them and finally seek a resolution. She was told not to pay the outstanding debt there and then as the final bill needed to be calculated and she would receive the bill in the post. Instead three days later she received a letter from a debt collector demanding payment. Dealing emotionally with a death of a loved one is hard enough, having to carry out the administrative tasks can be even more stressful and actions such as these from organisations merely add to the burden.

This situation cannot be unusual. We are an ageing population and around half a million people pass away each year in the UK, therefore by the law of averages a significant proportion of TalkTalk’s customer base must be in a similar situation. Giving them the benefit of the doubt whilst this might be the exception rather than the rule it is crucial that organisations put into a place a process that deals with deceased customers. This must include removing them from the customer database. Sending direct mail to people that pass away is not only incredibly insensitive, but also significantly damages the brand. Two thirds of people would immediately cease trading with a business if they received a piece of mail in the name of a loved one that had passed away.  It is crucial therefore to regularly use deceased suppression products to remove the names of people that have died.

Given the catalogue of errors that occurred in this case  we wouldn’t be surprised to hear that TalkTalk continued to send marketing communications to this customer too.

Watch this space…