Most companies are well aware of how important their customer service is. A positive customer service experience gives customers confidence and trust in a company, making it more likely they'll become loyal and repeat shoppers.
But when it comes to accessibility, unfortunately often in the customer service department, companies sometimes lack in enthusiasm and only cover the basics, if they consider accessibility at all. Companies must remind themselves that people with disabilities are also customers, and over 23 million people with disabilities are employed in the U.S. (PDF).
It's time to start treating accessibility as an important part of customer service.
People with disabilities as customers
Americans with disabilities have $490 billion in disposable income and $20 billion in discretionary income (PDF). Those figures alone should grab some attention and support the financial value consumers with disabilities have to business strategies.
Now, consider that there are over 61 million adults in the U.S. with a disability. That's another big number on its own, but take it further by adding to it the family members and friends of individuals with disabilities who care about disability, accessibility, and are likely to make purchases that align with their values.
Companies that don't address accessibility issues on their websites, and that don't prioritize accessibility in customer service and as customer service, simply are not reaching (or keeping) everyone they could be.
What is accessible customer service?
Some of the basic accessibility requirements of a website include elements like captions for all videos, sufficient color contrast, alt text for images, compatibility with assistive technology like screen readers, and keyboard accessibility. These kinds of considerations, which usually aren't difficult to accomplish (especially when factored in from the beginning), directly impact how well many people with disabilities can navigate a site and find and do what they need.
But what if they have questions, can't find what they want, or have a customer service request?
If people can't access digital content because of accessibility barriers or if they can't make general customer service inquiries, they're likely to shop elsewhere. in 2019, 49% of American shoppers made a switch to a different company because of poor customer service.
So how can customer service be made more accessible? Here are a few ideas:
- Provide multiple contact options. Some people want to use email or contact forms while others want to use more direct methods like live chat and phone calls. For preferences or needs based on disability or for any reason, people are able and comfortable using different methods. Having several contact methods can be an accessibility boost.
- Have clear and easy-to-find customer service options. People should always be able to find a way to help on a website and many people go to a website for the specific purpose of finding customer service information. Make self-serve and contact options easy to find, and position and label them consistently.
- Offer training for customer service reps. Service representatives and agents need to be equipped with some basic knowledge about accessibility to know how to field questions or take feedback when someone runs into an issue. At a minimum, they should understand some of the different ways people might use web content, like with assistive technology; they should be provided training on respectful language and sensitivity; and they should know what to do with questions and feedback to help a customer accomplish what they hope to do.
Accessibility improves customer retention
Getting customers is hard. Companies can keep them longer by demonstrating they value their business through accessible digital and customer service experiences.
Increasing retention rates by 5% can increase profits by up to 95%, but customer retention is reduced by a lack of accessibility. And, accessibility doesn't only improve customer service, it might actually reduce customer service costs.
What if customers could resolve issues on-the-spot?
One of the ways we work to improve customer service for our clients is by offering Live 24/7 Accessibility Support for their website visitors. A service like this shows their customers they're valued and, more importantly, helps them do what they came to the website to do.