Day in the life of a pathfinder supporting vulnerable customers
Our ground-breaking service for vulnerable customers has won two UK industry awards and many plaudits in 2021 for its innovative and meaningful approach when it comes to engaging with, and guiding, those who are experiencing problem debt and to help them access the best possible support.
A vital and integral part of its success are our very own Pathfinders who engage with those experiencing problems on a daily basis – helping to understand their circumstances, share tailored information and support options, and helping them to raise awareness of the help on offer.
One of those Pathfinders is Taryn Milligan. A widely respected and inspirational member of our team, she has been a Pathfinder at Sigma Connected for almost nine months after moving to the UK from South Africa.
So here in our latest online Q&A series, we sat down with Taryn and talked about her role, why she feels she is making a difference, and why she thinks the service will be even more successful in the months and years ahead within the utilities, finance and retail industries.
Q. Why did you want to be a Pathfinder and what skills do you think someone needs to be a success in the team?
Taryn responds: I started with Sigma in April 2021 during another big spike in the pandemic and settled in really quickly to the team after working for many years in a customer-facing retail and administration management role back home in South Africa.
My colleagues said that they saw me as a great fit to support vulnerable customers when Sigma’s dedicated service was getting ready to expand further, so when a role became available it looked really exciting and I was delighted to be nominated. Straight away I wanted to move across and be part of the team and help make a difference. I could see what it was already achieving and felt it would be really interesting and rewarding to be involved.
When it comes to the skills you need for success, I can only speak personally but for me a Pathfinder needs to have empathy and the skills to quickly build a rapport with someone, be able to immediately engage with them and have a natural ability to grasp complex details. We deal with a lot of issues every day which can be difficult to listen to at times so you also need to be emotionally strong and non-judgemental if you are to provide a professional service. I think those are the key ingredients.
Q. What about the training you received to be a Pathfinder? How useful has that been?
Taryn responds: The training has been exceptional. We had a very intensive seven-day training programme and I did that with three other colleagues who moved across to this dedicated service alongside me.
I found it so helpful as we did lots of role play exercises and tried to bring difficult situations to life and show how we could prepare for them. Very quickly when I started the role for real every one of those situations or scenarios happened so I was so grateful for the training.
Since then I am also really proud to have been asked to help train our new recruits for this new service for vulnerable customers. I think it helps to have someone from within the team to prepare them and get them ready for what might come up. It’s a really different role and unlike any other team I’ve worked in before so that knowledge and coaching is so important.
Plus, the team support we have is brilliant and a very high standard. The dynamic is incredible.
Q. How do you feel the vulnerable customers you engage with as a Pathfinder react to the offer of support?
Taryn responds: The key role of a Pathfinder is to engage and direct vulnerable people to a route of support. I really do find that people open up to us more often than not and see we aren’t calling them to collect money – we are there to help them and get an understanding of what their problems are, and hopefully then get them reengaged with their energy supplier.
We sadly deal with lots of very lonely people who are actually crying out for support. They like that we are there to help and signpost them to a mass range of charities we have access to, covering so many issues. Lots of people tend to contact us again which I think shows we’ve helped make a connection for them and built trust.
Q. So what is the process when a Pathfinder puts a person in touch with a charity for further help? How many people will you typically help in a day?
Taryn responds: Firstly we will collect all the details either over the phone or on email. This allows us to have as much information as possible to pass to the charity and then it is up to the individual to make that contact. We always make sure at this point they will have breathing space from their supplier whilst they take time to begin sorting their issues out. We always say it really is in their best interests to contact the organisations we put them in touch with.
In terms of how many people we help, some days are busier than others but on average we could speak to anything between one and 50 people each day. There are no time limits or targets for these specific calls – some calls can take a long time and to put that in context, you could have spoken to someone for a few hours but helped change their life. That’s what’s amazing about the service Pathfinders deliver and why it is so different. It’s not about targets.
Q. Talking of targets, and as someone who has been involved from very early on, what does success look like to you in the future?
Taryn responds: For me that’s really simple. Success is reengaging the individual with the client and getting them back on track. But there’s also the other side of coin, success to me is making that person feel more positive and empowered.
This service is a new model and growing really quickly. We are constantly training, reviewing what we are doing, how we can improve ourselves to be better.
I can only see the service going from strength to strength. There is also so much scope for personal development within the team if people want to progress into management roles. I think the sky is the limit.
Q. And finally, what do you love about being a Pathfinder for Sigma Connected’s service for vulnerable customers?
Taryn responds: I get a real sense of pride in what I do and it’s a great feeling knowing you can do that day in, day out. We have lots of people contact us who have actually said we helped save their lives. That’s such a powerful thing to hear and shows the impact you can have.
For further information about this service and how it can help your business, visit www.sigmaconnected.com/problem-debt-engagement