Common hurdles to customer service accessibility


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Customer service accessibility is too often viewed as just another buzzword for businesses to throw around. In reality, accessibility is not a buzzword, or a bonus, or a boardroom trend. Accessibility is a cornerstone of great customer service.

For the customer, support is only ever as useful as it is reachable. This is what customer service accessibility is ultimately about: designing your customer service to be available to everyone, at any time — regardless of differences such as age, ability, or location.

Unfortunately, achieving that universal accessibility is easier said than done. So, what are the most common hurdles along the track to accessible customer service, and what can be done to overcome them?

As we grow older, the way we view and interact with the world changes. This includes interacting with your business – online and off. Customers in the older generation can struggle to use a website. Some can’t use a mouse, some struggle to tap on small buttons, and others have difficulty reading small text or differentiating between similar colours.

This doesn’t mean you can’t put service within their reach. Increasing the accessibility of your customer service for older customers can be achieved through simple design considerations. Make any links to contact information or customer service stand out with high-contrast colours. Use a large font that can be adjusted for zooming. Ensure space between your links and buttons, to help prevent mis-clicks.

Even these small steps can make a big difference to older customers. By offering customisation options for the way your website looks, or by tailoring your user interface to suit issues that come with age, you instantly improve your customer service accessibility.

If you’re a global business, you may have customers that don’t speak the same language as your support team. This can make real-time human customer service inaccessible. These customers are restricted to receiving email correspondence, which is often slow and frustrating – particularly when the customer views their issue as urgent.

You needn’t search for and hire multi-lingual agents to scale this customer service accessibility hurdle. Another, easier way to answer language-based accessibility issues is with a live chat channel that offers real-time chat translation. This makes real-time customer service accessible worldwide. Customers and support agents can chat back and forth in their own respective languages, while the translation service smoothly works its magic in the background.

Multilingual websites are another key driver of accessibility. A site that can be translated is one that makes information and self-service available for all customers alike, not just those fluent in your chosen language.

Some customers are on the clock. Most customers are busy, many are impatient, and all expect you to value their time. Good customer service accessibility means ensuring that customers short of time can still access a great service experience. For the customer, time spent searching and waiting for support is time they could have spent with one of your competitors.

Accessibility is also affected by reachability when time isn’t a factor. With smartphones and other portable devices, customers can access your site anywhere, be it on the bus, at the park or in a coffee shop. If they can access your site, customer service needs to be accessible too.

You must meet customers where they are, when they need you, on any device. This means fast connections, timely responses and speedy service. Chatbots can be useful for keeping your customer service volumes under control and serving customers at any time of the day (as long as they have a human to support them when they get stuck.) A chatbot can answer easy questions and guide customers through self-service options, leaving your human team free to serve customers with more complex requests.

Disability and mental health
Accessibility is also about making it easy for people with health conditions or disabilities to contact and interact with your business. For some customers, verbal communication simply isn’t possible, such as customers with deafness or speech impediments. For others, text-based customer service isn’t accessible, due to eyesight problems or illiteracy.

Customer service accessibility is also prone to falling at a mental health hurdle. Mental disorders can be just as debilitating as any physical disability, and some customers need extra support and reassurance that they can trust you. Other customers, meanwhile, might need self-support options that don’t require anxiety-inducing communication with your representatives.

For customers with any kind of health issue, (mental or physical) customer service needs to be as easy as possible. Accessibility is improved for these customers by offering a wide choice of channels to reach you on. You need to be offering multiple service options, from telephone support, to real-time chat, to a self-service knowledge base. The more channels, the less chance there is of disability making contacting you impossible, and the more accessible your customer service.

Added benefits
Accessible customer service promotes trust. It can give you access to a larger pool of potential customers and help to make your site more sustainable. Simply, accessibility is good ethics as well as good business sense.

After all, no matter how great your customer service delivery, you fall at the very first hurdle if accessing this service is difficult. So, keep your business open by improving your customer service accessibility, and open the doors to new customers along the way.

Niamh Reed
I'm a Keele University graduate and copywriter for digital engagement specialist Parker Software. I graduated with first-class honors in English with creative writing and was also awarded a certificate of competency in Japanese. I can usually be found feverishly writing business technology articles – covering everything from AI to customer service – and drinking too much tea.


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