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Vulnerable customers

Vulnerable customers
Laura Wissiak
Laura Wissiak

Did you know?

  • 300,000 people in Austria have no or limited knowledge of German.
  • For 56% being able to communicate in their first language is more important than the price point!
  • 7.1% of 16 to 65-year-olds have quite low reading competencies.

Of course, the exact numbers will vary by country, but the underlying problems are the same.

So, how might we support people with limited language skills or restricted cognitive abilities throughout the customer journey?

And what did we find?

As of 2021, almost half of Vienna's population does not speak German as their first language. This also includes so-called heritage speakers, who speak German fluently but speak their parents' language more frequently at home. These are often involuntary interpreters for their families.

For at least 60,000 people with learning difficulties in Austria, the world is only as big as their caregivers make it. Social tariffs and similar offers are hardly used, simply because nobody knows they exist! Prepaid tariffs are popular for cost control, although they are more expensive in the long run.

24% of teenagers are classified as being at risk of reading difficulties.

There is currently only one provider in Austria offering its website in 9 languages – nobody else in the Austrian market does! Although the data clearly underscore the meaningfulness. The finance and tourism sectors are already showing how it should be done: all relevant information available in the most spoken languages and unfamiliar terms explained. A prime example is the George app from Erste Bank.

Not only customers experience a language barrier. Even within internal mobility job opportunities, on average, 20% of onboarding time is lost due to unfamiliar abbreviations and technical terms. Technical jargon costs time.

Based on these insights, we have also developed some ideas for where to start:

Language accessibility for all media: Critical information should be offered - online and offline - in multiple languages and also easy language to reach approximately 300,000 more people.

Self-service options specifically for people with learning difficulties and reading weaknesses: Because "less is more," self-service options should only contain essential data. Together with pictograms, this would make understanding easier and alleviate fears of people with cognitive impairments that they might do something wrong.

Making the language diversity among employees visible and usable: Employees in shops, and service lines are just as diverse as customers. This could be made visible, for example in shops through name tags, or through offering a language selection alongside callback services. Leveraging these already existing talents would lead to higher customer satisfaction and standardization of call duration and information quality. For 56% of customers, communication and advice are more important for the purchasing decision than the price itself.

Empowering those affected and their environment: Let's push information to where it is needed: To the facilities, to the caregivers - so that they can support people with learning disabilities. But also to the people themselves, to show them how to use the Internet safely!

Die Welt ist nur so groß, wie Betreuer sie machen.

Patrizia, caregiver at Caritas

This article was originally published at