“A Question of Visibility”
Steve Brownlow, Click Away Surveys Ltd
Picture the scene. It is the Online Britain AGM. The CEO is explaining to assembled shareholders that there is good news and bad news. The good news is that the company has identified a set of customers with £11.75 billion a year to spend. The bad news is that the company has decided to pass this market to its competitors. Polite applause, and on to the next item…
It couldn't happen of course; no company would knowingly put off potential customers, would it? Well, that is exactly what is happening in Britain's online retail world.
So, who are these customers and why are they invisible to so many businesses?
The invisible customer
The Click-Away Pound Survey (CAP) found more than 6 million people in the UK who find using online shops and services not so easy. For a huge variety of reasons, people may not find it straightforward to use a mouse, or read the words, or find their way round a busy screen.
The great thing about the internet is that none of these people need be left out. Awareness in design and development should mean that all websites and apps are available to everyone. So why is it still not happening? Why are so many people still invisible?
Perhaps decision-makers make too many assumptions?
‘It's just a small minority...’
Our survey suggested that these users represent around 10% of total UK online retail spending. That total retail spending stood at more than £130 billion in 2016. Not worth worrying about then.
‘But nobody complains...’
One of the most striking of the CAP findings was that 93% of users who have a problem using a website will simply take their business elsewhere, even if ‘elsewhere’ is more expensive. The internet provides ever-growing choice, and users don't need to put up with ‘difficult to use’.
‘That's what the helpline is for...’
All our experience tells us that too many helplines not only fail to solve the immediate customer issue, but make the problem worse by providing the customer with a frustrating and alienating experience. Too much automation, too many staff who don't understand access needs.
‘It's just a technical issue...’
The challenge of accessibility goes beyond role descriptions or departmental boundaries; everyone has an interest and a responsibility. Any organisation’s digital presence will include increasing numbers of internal systems as well as customer facing websites and apps. As organisations become ever more reliant on digital, the ‘access issue’ touches all organisational levels, functions, systems and products.
So, what can you do?
The great thing is that businesses don't need to do anything special to attract these customers - just remove the barriers that exclude them. Of course, these are barriers that you probably didn't know about, so the first step is to ask, “Do our digital products exclude some customers?”
The CAP report points to some of the areas where you can start to bring down the barriers:
- Start at the top - the quality of the customer experience starts here, and someone needs to own the issue
- Excellence in customer experience relates to every customer and every potential customer - so understand them all
- The people who understand barriers best are people with access needs, so include them in concept and design, as well as user testing
- Make sure that designers and developers have the awareness, knowledge and resources they need through training, guidelines and support
Think of the upside: access to more customers, positive publicity, higher customer satisfaction, improved staff satisfaction, access to a wider candidate pool.
For 6 million people with almost £12 billion to spend isn’t it worth asking the right questions?
© Steve Brownlow & Click Away Surveys Ltd., 2018