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Customer service key to disabled access

Customer service key to disabled access

Wednesday 13 November 2019

Customer service key to disabled access

Retailers can tap into £200m of local spending power by making their shops and websites more accessible for disabled people, according to the head of We All Matter, Eh?

Local charities and businesses staged a breakfast meeting for people with disabilities and those looking to better develop their customer service as part of a nationwide 'Purple Tuesday' initiative.

The aim of the day is to raise awareness of visible and hidden disabilities and to provide information on how organisations can improve the customer experience for disabled people by focussing on straightforward, low-cost solutions. 

Guest speakers at yesterday morning's event at the Digital Greenhouse included We All Matter, Eh? Partnership Director Karen Blanchford, States Disability Officer Gill Evans, Speech and Language Therapist Kitty Stewart and Access for All Information Lead Ben Jones.  

New research published for Purple Tuesday reveals that 'poor customer service' and 'a lack of staff understanding' are among the key barriers preventing disabled consumers purchasing goods and services.

The research has prompted calls for businesses and organisations to rethink how they target disabled consumers and their families, whose spending power – the so-called Purple Pound – is estimated to be £249 billion every year in the UK and around £200m in Guernsey.

"There are 13,000 with disabilities according to a States survey and more than 4,000 carers on the island," said Mrs Blanchford, as she explained the financial, social and repetitional benefits of businesses catering for people with different requirements. 

This year's event is focussing on long-term changes that can be made, not just in retail but across different walks of life.

With the festive season coming up, customer service in retail is also in the spotlight.

 Mrs Blanchford said online accessibility is just as important as physical accessibility, as many disabled people choose to shop online. 

She cited a recent study which reported that 75% of disabled people have had to leave a store or website, unable to go through with their purchase because of their disability.

Some examples of changes that organisations can make include:

• Conducting an online audit of your website to improve accessibility

• Training staff to know and understand how to communicate effectively with disabled customers

• Getting front line staff to learn basic British Sign Langue skills to communicate with those customers from the deaf community

• Conducting an on-site audit to ensure the physical space is suitable for every customer, making sure aisles are clear and unobstructed

• Introducing quiet hours on a regular basis to help people who struggle with music, tannoys and noise (as The Co-Operative Society Guernsey have done).

Pictured top: Karen Blanchford (Pic from We All Matter, Eh?) 

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