Customer inclusiveness isn’t just a nice thing to do in the world of customer experience. There’s an ROI to it - the more included people feel, the more they trust, and the more loyal they become.
Forrester’s 2022 predictions list accessibility in CX as a top priority for businesses today. The focus on digital accessibility has been growing in recent years, and COVID-19 brought it to the forefront. When many retailers shut their doors and relied solely on digital experiences, the only solution for people with disabilities were accessible e-commerce sites.
But let’s be frank: the pandemic brought these issues to the fore, but they’re not new. For too long, too many companies have set their accessibility sights on compliance – checking boxes to avoid lawsuits. But what we really need to strive for is inclusion.
When you strive for compliance, the end goal is passing the test, or getting the checkmark that keeps you in business. It’s a step in a positive direction, but the focus is on the regulations. Striving for inclusion, on the other hand, puts the focus on the people the regulations are designed to help. It’s the C in your CX.
Twenty-six percent of Americans live with a disability. That’s a quarter of the population (accounting for $490 billion in disposable income) you may be discounting by not considering accessibility in CX.
Moreover, a 2019 survey of disabled shoppers found that 86% would pay more for the same product if the site was more accessible.
Accessibility in CX: Designing for everyone
So how can you build a more inclusive customer experience? Here are some best practices for approaching accessibility in CX, and one pitfall to avoid at all costs.
Make your website more accessible
According to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative, web accessibility encompasses all disabilities that impact access to the web, including auditory, cognitive, speech, and visual. It also helps people with changing abilities due to aging and people with injuries like a broken arm.
There are tons of ways to make your existing digital experience more accessible. Some best practices that are easier to implement today include:
- Adding descriptive alt text on your images. People who use screen readers rely on this text when browsing your site. For images like size charts or product feature highlights, use clear language that describes the image content. For decorative images that aren’t as crucial for the experience, make the alt text null (i.e., <img alt=””>) so readers ignore them.
- Make sure your form fields have visible labels, not just placeholder text. This makes the forms more accessible via screen readers and speech recognition tools.
- Make it easier for users with visual impairments to read your content by ensuring the color contrast is legible.
And as you work to make your experience more accessible, don’t stop after checkout! Customer experience doesn’t end with the purchase. Make sure the after-purchase experience is just as inclusive. It should be just as easy to leave a review, contact customer service and engage with loyalty programs as it is to buy a product.
Conduct an accessibility audit
Remember: compliant and accessible are not necessarily the same thing. Even if you meet all the accessibility standards, your experience may not be easy to use for everyone. Of course, you don’t know what you don’t know. Get a sense of how user-accessible your site is by conducting an audit.
While you could do this in-house, getting an outside perspective will likely be more effective. Research accessibility consultants and specialists to help conduct a full audit of your site and identify key action items.
Web accessibility and usability go hand-in-hand, but most brands don't consider accessibility as something that can have a significant impact on KPIs like conversion rate or average order value.
Think outside the website
CX is more than a website, so when designing for accessibility in CX, don’t limit yourself to your web browser.
Approach the experience from the ground up and consider new ways to engage with all your customers. For example, what would an engagement look like if done entirely via voice assistant, such as Alexa?
Instead of always retrofitting accessibility into an existing framework, try tackling new experiences as accessibility-first. It may unlock new, creative ideas that could impact your entire CX.
The No. 1 mistake to avoid when it comes to accessibility in CX: Not involving people with disabilities at every step.
If you want to make your customer experience inclusive for people who are disabled, then you need to include people who are disabled in the designing, building, and testing of the experience.
Empathy is crucial, but assumptions are dangerous. The best way to ensure you’re not missing major blind spots is to involve your end user every step of the way.
Practicing customer empathy leads to better business results and brand loyalty. Discover the touchpoints necessary to understand consumer emotions.
Accessibility in CX boosts your brand
And if you’re thinking, “My audience doesn’t include that many people with disabilities,” let me remind you…
Not all disabilities are visible, and not all disabilities are permanent.
By designing experiences that are accessible to everyone, you only stand to benefit.