Poor service for disabled customers costing companies dear

23rd Jun 2015

UK businesses are throwing away £20 billion per year due to poor customer service and a lack of awareness of the issues faced by people with disabilities, according to the results of an inquiry.

A report published by the Extra Costs Commission (ECC) on Tuesday revealed that, although the so-called “Purple Pound” is worth £212 billion per annum, three quarters of disabled people and their families had left a shop or business at some point because they were unhappy with how they were treated.

The findings of the Commission’s survey of more than 2,500 disabled people and 85 related organisations, which included walkaway pound research by the Business Disability Forum, also found that friendly and helpful staff (71%) and good accessibility (55%) were the most important factors when shopping.

The inquiry was launched in response to research by disability charity Scope, which revealed that disabled people fork out an average of £550 more than able-bodied people each month, although the Disability Living Allowance is only £360 per month.

As result, the probe looked at evidence that less competitive markets push up everyday living costs for disabled people because they have:

  • To make multiple trips the shops to find the products they need.
  • A reduced choice of products to buy from.
  • To purchase goods that are slightly different or more expensive than normal.
  • To pay over the odds.

Robin Hindle Fisher, chair of the ECC, said: “It is very clear that life costs more if you are disabled. Maintaining the value of benefits is absolutely critical, but the Commission believes better functioning markets and increased competition can also play a part in improving services and driving down costs.”

Therefore, the organisation issued a 16-point plan at an event in London attended by business leaders and disability and consumer organisations. Its recommendations focused on:

  • Encouraging businesses to improve customer service in relation to disabled people and recognise the power of the Purple Pound, which includes building relationships with disability organisations to find out more about this customer segment’s requirements.
  • Calling on disability organisations to improve information and services to both disabled people and businesses in order to help them drive down costs. For example, Nimbus Social Enterprise Consulting plans to act on an ECC recommendation by developing an Access Card to enable users to get discounts and incentives from retailers and service providers.
  • Encouraging regulators and government to intervene where necessary to help cut unfair extra costs for disabled people. For example, the ECC recommends that the Government adopt Law Commission proposals on taxi and private hire vehicles to ensure disabled people receive an equal and fairly-priced service.
  • Supporting disabled people to be “bold and loud” and build up their consumer power behind the Purple Pound by sharing positive and negative shopping experiences with others through online disability communities.

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