In a recent prediction, Forrester described 2021 as the year of inclusive customer experience (CX).
When I read that, I wondered if that implied it wasn’t inclusive before.
I’ll leave you to answer that question.
However, putting that to one side, one aspect of inclusivity that is not often discussed is disability.
This is something that I’ve explored before in:
- ‘Does The Hospitality And Service Industries Need More People With Disabilities?‘, where I detailed an exceptional service experience I had with a young man that was operating the coffee station at the Novotel Aerocity in New Delhi who could neither hear nor talk; and
- In a podcast about the efforts of the folks who run Taziki’s Mediterranean Café, a fast-casual chain of franchised restaurants in the U.S., and their Hope (Herbs Offering Personal Enrichment) initiative, which partners with local institutions to hire people with special needs. They then teach them how to plant, water, harvest and bag all of the herbs that they use in their restaurants. Finally, they then ask every Taziki restaurant to hire at least one of these individuals to work in their store. As Dan Simpson, CEO at Taziki’s Mediterranean Café, says, “We would be wise to become students of anyone who has special needs because their abilities outshine their disabilities and they bring joy and love into our environment, and that makes us all better off. And, guests have the same experience too.”
Now, we should applaud these businesses for what they are doing. But, lately and very encouragingly, I’ve started to see more and more technology initiatives aimed at improving the customer experience of people with disabilities.
And, about time too, particularly when you consider that:
- 20% of the world’s population are disabled, and that includes everything from muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, acquired brain injury, epilepsy, autism, schizophrenia, stammering, dyslexia and diabetes, and
- 75% of disabled people and their families have walked away from a UK business because of poor accessibility or customer service.
The encouraging initiatives I’ve seen include:
- The WelcoMe app, created by Gavin Neate, CEO and Founder of Neatebox and his team, which is currently the only solution that combines front-line staff training and support of disabled customers. In a recent podcast, Neate explained that their app allows a customer with a disability to set up a basic profile and pick a venue or business listed on their system they would like to visit. The system then lets the appropriate service team know when they are about to arrive and provides them with an overview of the condition the person has, links to information about that particular condition and top tips on how best to interact with someone with that condition.
- Post-purchase AI platform HelloDone has recently partnered with DHL Parcel UK to support two-way conversations between customers with disabilities and drivers so that they can arrange accessible home deliveries. This includes a ‘Just a Minute’ (JAM) option that alerts drivers that they may need to wait longer than usual at a drop-off point, so customers with disabilities have time to get to their door. This problem was highlighted by a recent study by Citizens Advice, which found that more than a third (39%) of people with disabilities experienced problems with deliveries in a single week last year.
- Talov, an Ecuadorian start-up, has developed an app called SpeakLiz, which has been designed specifically for the deaf community. It utilizes AI to transform written text to sound, transcribe spoken words, and can also alert a deaf or hard-of-hearing person to nearby sounds like that of an ambulance, a motorcycle, loud music, or even a crying baby. In addition, it also has a very impressive Sign Language Recognition feature that transforms classic sign language into voice and text in real-time through the use of the user’s phone camera. This allows the deaf or hard-of-hearing person to communicate with just about everyone, regardless of whether they know sign language or not.
These are wonderful examples of technological innovations that are improving both the every day and the customer experience of people with disabilities.
I, for one, hope that we see more and more of these innovations and initiatives developed, funded and used as much as possible.
Then, along with additional efforts to address the needs of other marginalized communities, we will then be able to claim that we are taking a more inclusive approach to customer experience.