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How Technology is Driving a More Inclusive Customer Experience
By Jamie Dormandy, Head of Advice and Customer Service, Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)
We all like to be included, and technology is enabling organisations to remove the barriers that exclude minority groups from buying their products and using their services.
I recently caught up with two colleagues, Madleen and Mohammed, who cite technology as a key enabler to their independent and fulfilling lives- it removes barriers that life throws up for blind and partially sighted people; it puts them on an increasingly level playing field. They enthused about accessible mainstream products, and it was apparent that their general well-being is uplifted by being included by design, in addition to the practical benefits the technology brings. Mohammed raved about the banking app he uses with a voiceover: “now I can manage my money on the sofa, on the train with a screen curtain, wherever I like.” Madleen spoke about it making socialising easier: “when we split the bill in a restaurant I’m usually faster than my sighted friends to pay!” They both contrasted the ease of using off-the-shelf apps with hard-coded accessibility with the pain of using a specialist kit to retrofit their needs.
People with disabilities make up about 15 percent of the world’s population, a market around the size of China. In the UK alone, the Extra Costs Commission reported that people with disabilities and their households contribute £249 billion to the economy every year. The same research found that three-quarters of disabled people and their families have left a shop or business due to poor customer service or lack of disability awareness and two-thirds of disabled people think products are not developed with them in mind. The cost of lost customers is often compounded by the cost of retro-fitting cumbersome, specialised solutions.
Designing for inclusive customer experience
At RNIB we’re increasingly asked, “tell us how we can do this well” as businesses seek the know how to design products for everyone. Things that seemed once impossible are now inevitable, and companies that don’t take inclusion seriously are being left behind.
As with any organisational capability, there is no silver bullet, but there are things leaders can do to ensure their organisations deliver repeatedly inclusive and high-quality customer experiences.
Your board understands your legal commitment to inclusion.
They endorse a policy that seeks to understand your diverse groups of customers, how they interact with your products and services, and how their needs are embedded into the design process. An enterprise-wide process is defined for ensuring the policy is applied, in particular to product, service, IT, and digital development.
Endorse a policy that seeks to understand your diverse groups of customers, how they interact with your products and services, and how their needs are embedded into the design process
Your defined policy and process is complemented with consistent training for staff that ensures high awareness and commitment across the organisation. The result is consistently excellent experiences across your diverse group of customers. Feedback loops are embedded to capture the ongoing requirements of all customers and insert them into service design and development. Customers notice the difference as their experience goes from meeting legal requirements to personalising their journey, boosting their loyalty and propensity to recommend.
3. Proactive Management
You are fully complying with your defined policy and inclusion is integrated into your organisation’s culture and strategy, rather than an “add-on.” Your organisation influences its suppliers, especially those that impact the customer experience. Minority groups, including people with disabilities, are consulted routinely as part of product and service development, and the organisation maintains proactive communication with these communities. External benchmarks for customer feedback are met, and the learning shared openly across the organisation.
Your organisation is championed by diverse groups of customers and is seen as a leader in your sector. You maintain momentum by allocating a specific budget for innovation in inclusive design and contribute to sector-wide standards for accessibility. You consider additional customer feedback loops and engage further user groups to increase your personalisation, usability, and reach into the market.
Leading the way
For the purists among us, it always comes back to the customer experience—consistent excellence with a dash of delight that makes people return to brands they have learned to trust.
I asked my colleagues what innovations they are most looking forward to in the next ten years. “Definitely autonomous vehicles,” says Mohammed, “being able to go somewhere in your own time, not relying on anyone else. And it’s time my friends listened to my music!”
Madleen can’t wait for more devices at home to be connected and enabled with voice commands: “I’d like to get it all hooked up: kettle, microwave, washing machine, lighting –driving it through voice means that I am in control and can customise all the settings easily. I also want more consistency when I’m out and about – things like vending machines, lifts, cash machines – all these things could be easier for everyone with voice commands. I’d like to be able to plug in my headphones to the ticket machine at the train station instead of standing in the queue at the office.”
The future can be inclusive, or technology can lock your customers out. Taking proactive steps to embed inclusion into the design can open up significant market segments and customer loyalty for your business and turn today’s impossible into tomorrow’s inevitable.
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