Embarrassment over debt stops many from seeking help

The stigma attached to being in debt is preventing many people from seeking help with their financial problems.

That’s according to new research by Echo Managed Services which has also uncovered evidence that many of those with money problems were put off seeking support over concerns service providers would be unsympathetic.

In the study of 1,000 UK residents, which examined their experiences, knowledge and attitudes towards household arrears, 52% admitted there was a level of shame attached to seeking help with debt.

Nearly 60% of those questioned blamed this stigma on social stereotyping and their own feelings of embarrassment and inadequacy.

But 36% thought the practices used by their service providers was a major contributor towards this stigma too. Indeed, they had observed a tendency for advisors to be ‘offhand’ or ‘aggressive’ and often made assumptions about the customer’s background or reasons for falling into debt.

Monica Mackintosh, customer services director at Echo Managed Services, said the research highlighted just how important it was for organisations dealing with people in debt to be understanding.

She said: “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 research also uncovered evidence that when going through the debt recovery process, many customers did not feel valued.

Mackintosh added: “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 contract, 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.”

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