Training Your Customer Service Team with an Accessible Mindset

September 24, 2021

Great customer service improves customer retention and adds value to your products and services. Accessibility enhances these benefits — your customer care team will work directly with people who have disabilities, so part of your accessibility initiative should include training for customer service.

To build effective training, you’ll need to set clear goals and communicate them effectively to employees. Here, we’ll discuss a few tactics that can make the process more effective.

Focus on the principles of accessibility

If your business needs to comply with laws like Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), you might think of accessibility training as only a supplemental add-on to your standard onboarding procedures. That’s a mistake — to build and maintain relationships with customers, you’ll need to treat accessibility as a fundamental priority. 

Any person who interacts with customers should understand how their decisions can affect people with disabilities. The AODA outlines four principles of customer service accessibility, which include:

  • Dignity - Providing all customers with the same high-quality, respectful service regardless of whether they have disabilities.
  • Independence - Providing customers with the freedom to complete tasks on their own and make decisions at a comfortable pace.
  • Integration - Policies, programs, and services are designed in a way that is accessible to everyone.
  • Equal Opportunity - Providing all customers with the opportunity to receive the same benefits from the same services without requiring significantly more effort.

Regardless of whether your organization has a legal responsibility to comply with the AODA, these principles are an effective starting point when applied consistently. Review your policies and procedures to find opportunities to reinforce accessibility as a priority. 

Pay attention to all of your customer service team’s communication tools

Your customer care team should also understand how digital accessibility affects their communications, particularly if they primarily communicate with customers online. For example, a customer service professional might accidentally frustrate a customer by sending them a link to an inaccessible PDF or a poorly optimized page on your website. 

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is the most widely cited set of standards for digital accessibility, and testing for WCAG conformance can reveal issues that affect real-world users. Many accessibility laws (including the AODA) are based on WCAG standards, which require content to be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.

Help your team build an awareness of WCAG and understand the framework’s principles. Make sure your website is optimized for real users before issues occur — auditing your content for accessibility is a crucial step. 

Finally, provide accessible help resources on every page. Remember, if your customers can’t find ways to contact your team, you’ll lose their business regardless of whether you’re committing resources to accessibility training. 

Include your customer service team in your digital accessibility conversation.

When customers encounter something frustrating or offensive, they’ll tell customer service. Employees who work directly with customers can have valuable insights about accessibility, so involve them in your decision-making process.

If you’re aware of an accessibility issue, ask for input for understanding and resolving that issue. Some barriers can be fixed in an obvious way; for instance, if your website is not accessible for people who use screen readers, you’ll know that you need to work with your web development team to make accommodations. However, your customer service team might be able to provide examples of how the issue affects your actual audience. 

By understanding your customers' experiences, you can ensure that you’re addressing the issue appropriately. Additionally, your staff might have other examples of related problems, and by opening up the discussion, you can help your team establish accessibility as a priority. 

Read: If Customer Retention Matters to Your Business, Accessibility Should Too

Accessible customer service has benefits for every customer

As we’ve discussed on this blog, accessibility is customer service — by creating a better experience, you’ll help to build trust and confidence with your customers. Accessibility has dozens of benefits that extend to your entire audience, not just people living with disabilities.

With that said, accessibility training is a major undertaking. The Bureau of Internet Accessibility offers on-site training and self-paced training courses that introduce the fundamental concepts of the WCAG framework. We also provide live 24/7 accessibility support services for your customers, which give them immediate access to agents that actively work with callers to resolve issues.   

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