Catering for all your customers

17th Nov 2022

Imagine you decide to hold a party and invite all of your customers. Aside from the logistics of fitting them into an acceptable space, one of the first considerations would be arranging a menu that catered for individual food preferences.

Go back even twenty or thirty years and the prevailing attitude was very much along the lines of ‘if we are doing a roast dinner and you are a vegetarian then you can make do with the vegetables.’ Nowadays, food preferences have come into the mainstream with those offering food at a party or event embracing the idea that they may need to tweak the menu for vegetarians and vegans, for those who are gluten intolerant or allergic to certain foods.

Even the latest ‘I’m a celebrity’ bushtucker trial accepted this idea. So whilst Matt Hancock munched on various unmentionable parts of animals, Boy George who is vegan was presented with a variety of over-fermented fruits and vegetables.

So we accept that people have different dietary needs and we are happy to go out of our way to cater for them. Why therefore when it comes to communications are we not prepared to do the same thing? Surely it can’t be because in an increasingly online world, we are happy to ignore those who don’t have an online voice?

It can’t be that, because that would be discrimination. And yet!

Online discrimination in action

One of our colleagues is helping to sort out the finances and paperwork for an elderly relative who has had to move into a care home. Our colleague has been shocked at the level of service afforded to those who don’t have a computer, don’t have an e-mail address, and therefore can’t set up an online account.

Time after time they’ve been stuck in phone queues for well over half an hour whilst disembodied voices interrupt mechanical music to urge them to go online, to look up the answer in their account, or to engage with a chatbot. And when they finally get through the stock answer is to e-mail the query and someone will get back to them, generally after a minimum period of ten days or so. But how does this person e-mail when they don’t have an e-mail address or computer? And if you try and find an address to write to then it is usually buried in the small print in an obscure area of a website.

Now our colleague is computer literate so they have been able to step in and find solutions for their relative. But if they hadn’t been there then an elderly person would not have been able to query or cancel contracts, advise people they were moving, or in fact manage their finances in any way. And it’s not because they are old. The blame lies squarely at the door of those companies and governmental organisations which have decided that they are offering the online equivalent of a roast meal and it’s tough luck on anyone who can’t take part.

The solution

It’s now a societal norm to cater for the dietary preferences of individuals. Surely it’s about time we did the same for those who for whatever reason can’t correspond via the net. Offer a phoneline. Answer calls within a reasonable time. And above all, staff those phones with people who have been trained to be empathetic and to actively seek a solution. Only then can you truly say that you are catering for all of your customers.

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