If you were to discover that your business was ignoring the needs of a potential customer base worth £274 billion per year how would you react? Would you continue doing business without addressing the problem or even showing a slight interest in making the necessary changes?

The group in question is people with disabilities and one in five of them are part of the active working force. According to Purple Tuesday, less than 10% of all UK organisations have a targeted plan to access the disability market.

That brings us to the question of whether we are doing enough to support these people and create an inclusive customer experience. I believe that proper employee training can help with this mission and aid brands in increasing the number of customers. In this article, I’ll walk you through the five key elements of an inclusive and informed brand.

Begin with raising disability awareness

Becoming a fully accessible organisation requires a companywide effort. The first step in this process should be educating employees to possess a strong disability awareness and understanding. Awareness training helps people to develop greater knowledge of disability by raising confidence and removing any barriers that may exist. It is designed to educate and support workforces by inspiring a new perspective on disability, the one that covers issues of etiquette, communication, language, and inclusive behaviour.

Start educating teams

The Walk Away Pound Report (2015) revealed that 75% of disabled people and their families have walked away from brands with poor disability awareness. This particularly applies to the online environment, as the last year created the need for improvements. In 2019, the Clickaway Report revealed that 71% of disabled people with access needs said they ‘clicked away’ from sites that had some kind of navigation barrier.

People with disability talk about raising awareness in the business world.

Of course, employees who work directly with customers will need assistance from other departments that communicate externally, such as the marketing and IT departments.

Let’s take a look at one real-time situation. An employee in a retail outlet might have done everything in his or her power to serve and guide around a partially sighted customer but failed to provide adequately formatted written materials. This is an example of a service that doesn’t support the journey of a disabled customer all the way through. It leads me to the point that inclusive service has to be planed collaboratively across different departments.

Overcome uncomfortable situations

While customers with disabilities might be able to easily access your website and use your services, their journey doesn’t end there. The most important element is having employees who can overcome awkward situations and make customers feel comfortable.

Believe it or not, in a recent study conducted by Scope, two-thirds of the British public (67%) admit to feeling ‘uncomfortable’ and ‘awkward’ when talking to people with disabilities. Now, imagine how that may be impacting the interaction between employees and customers with disabilities.

An effective awareness training programme will enable employees to gain a thorough understanding of the challenges and difficulties people with disabilities face when interacting. This will allow them to be more patient and empathetic to customers’ needs. Empathy and patience are not only effective in increasing accessibility, but also two crucial skills for outstanding customer service.

Act on customer feedback

For most people, the word disability usually conjures the image of a wheelchair user. Understandably so, given that a wheelchair has been the universal symbol of disability for many years. However, only 8% of people with disabilities in the UK are wheelchair users. In fact, it is estimated that 80% of people with disabilities have hidden impairments.

Two pairs of hands hold a jigsaw which stands for the importance of support and disability awareness.

So, how can we offer customers proper services without knowing they have disabilities in the first place? Again, training will help employees recognize the needs of their customers. It will equip them with proper materials and solutions to react properly and promptly.

It’s important to highlight, however, that employees shouldn’t make assumptions about the needs of their customers. Instead, they should subtly ask whether additional help is needed and act on the received feedback.

Building an inclusive culture through disability awareness

An improvement in all previously mentioned aspects brings every company to better and more inclusive culture – the one that improves CX for everyone. With 14.1 million people with disabilities living in the UK, making a few adjustments to better serve people’s needs seems like a natural step. Furthermore, companies will make customers feel valued, relaxed, and more comfortable in disclosing their disabilities.

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