If Customer Retention Matters to Your Business, Accessibility Should Too

April 20, 2020

Most research and statistics are pretty consistent in finding that it is much cheaper to keep the customers you have than to acquire new ones. In fact, small improvements in retention rates have been shown to increase profits by large amounts. Accessibility is an important but often-overlooked aspect of customer retention, and the reason is simple: if customers can no longer or easily use your products or services, they are probably going to do business elsewhere.

Customer retention pays off big

There isn't a singular statistic on the value of investing in keeping the customers you already have, just as there is no one-size-fits-all way to run a successful business. The numbers that are available, however, show a nice return on customer retention investment.

It's cheaper to keep customers than attract new ones

According to Invesp, new customer acquisition is five times more expensive than retention.

You only get one shot at a first impression, and it must have been a good enough one to win the customer. Now find a way to keep them.

Slight improvements in retention rates can yield major profit boosts

In the early stages of a business, it can be harder and more expensive to gain customers. As models become sophisticated and the costs of serving customers tend to drop, customer retention can become highly profitable.

Boosting retention rates by just 5% can increase profits between 25% and 95%, according to Bain & Company, along with Harvard Business School.

Service and experience drive customer retention

Ninety-six percent of customers say customer service plays an important role in their choice to stay loyal to a brand, found the Microsoft 2017 State of Global Customer Service Report - PDF.

Seventy-three percent of customers say experience is important in determining what they buy, says PwC.

This list can go on, but doesn't need to. Here's the point: how you treat people matters, and treating them better, with better service and a better experience, makes them more likely to stay a customer.

Customer retention suffers when accessibility suffers

Most information that's readily available on the topic of improving customer retention focuses on building out marketing and loyalty strategies to help cash in on the value and opportunity existing customers present. While important, critical even, those priorities don't provide any lift to customers who really may like to stay, but can't or choose not to due to accessibility barriers.

By current estimates, 25% of adults in the United States have a disability. Americans with disabilities are also estimated to have $490 billion in disposable income and $20 billion in discretionary income, yet brands are losing billions by not ensuring digital accessibility. Why such a big number?

If products and services aren't accessible, many people can't use them

People aren't born knowing the ins and outs of digital accessibility, and so if this is your introduction to accessibility, it refers specifically to building websites, apps, and digital content in ways that allow people with disabilities to use them.

Despite the still-common myth that people with disabilities simply don't use computers, they do. And sometimes, people might read or use the same web content in very different ways. People may use assistive technology like screen readers or magnifiers for visual disabilities. Or, they may use a keyboard instead of a mouse, or any number of alternate input or tracking devices, and this is to name only a few.

If content isn't built or fixed to be compatible with the ways people access it, they can be partially or completely prevented from using it independently.

If accessibility worsens, customers will leave

If a website is so inaccessible from the beginning, many would-be customers will have gone to more-accessible competitors and the opportunity to retain them never presents itself. But in the case of existing customers, changes that negatively impact accessibility may also drive them away.

When accessibility isn't prioritized and maintained like other critical aspects, such as privacy and security, it will slip, even if a website was once built or fixed to be accessible. Technology and content change, and so naturally the accessibility of that content changes, too.

In effect, many customers may feel forced to find other options or may do so out of principle. After all, the top reason people switch brands is because they don't feel appreciated, which stands to reason. If people don't think a company values their business, why should they give them their business?

Be sure to have a plan in place to keep accessibility thriving as your business and its material evolve.

You might think have no accessibility issues if you get no complaints

If nobody has made you aware of any accessibility barriers on your website, can you assume your site is error-free? Probably not.

  1. Customers might not know how to contact you.
  2. Customers might not think it's worth it to contact you.
  3. Customers may have already found your competitors to be more accessible.
  4. Customers may not have known their rights.

It's important to keep in mind that most websites are not fully accessible. While this does mean accessibility has the potential to be competitive differentiator, it also means your website probably isn't accessible on its own, without having been built or fixed according to industry best practices.

Your best bet is a website that is accessible by default

People do things online quickly, very quickly. In the time it takes a customer to contact an organization for help doing what they hoped to do, they probably could have found another service that works for them.

Whenever possible, avoid putting your customers in a position where they have to do something extra to have access to the same materials other people can access immediately. Instead, make your website and all digital offerings accessible by default.

Still, keep in mind that nothing is 100% accessible to 100% of people. So even if your website is in good shape, your service and feedback channels may still get accessibility-related questions or complaints. Make sure those groups are versed on how to handle them. If it doesn't seem worth it to spend the time and effort explaining the issue and waiting for a response, customers aren't likely to bother again, but they may be likely to spend that time finding another provider.

Related: What If Your Customers Could Resolve Accessibility Issues in Real-Time?

Can accessibility also reduce customer service costs?

It's definitely possible. Fewer accessibility issues mean fewer potential instances of people needing help. Following that line of thinking, accessibility can lead to fewer calls, online chats, and emails. Reducing those numbers enough may add up.

Additionally, consumer preference for self-service, like Frequently Asked Questions and knowledge bases, are overtaking other avenues of customer service. If those resources are accessible, many more customers will be able to answer their own questions.

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