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Why accessible CX should be a priority for brands in 2023

Posted February 7, 2023
Illustration of electronic tablet displaying various accessibility settings

One in four Americans has a disability.

That's according to the Centers for Disease Control and other health authorities. Globally speaking, the World Health Organization says 1.3 billion people have a disability — about 16% of the world today.

It is essential that our physical and digital environments are designed for people with mobility, cognitive, intellectual or sensory limitations.

While some inaccessibility issues — like a store with stairs, but no wheelchair ramp or elevator — are often top of mind, it is important that brands prioritize accessibility throughout all aspects of their organization. And that includes creating inclusive, accessible customer experiences.

Four reasons why investing in accessible CX makes business sense

Your customer experience (CX) should be accessible to all — both as a measure of responsible corporate governance, and also in compliance with accessibility legislation.

Still, many brands struggle in prioritizing accessibility. It can be seen as an expensive challenge to satisfy what feels like a minority of customers, with some brands not considering the implications at all.

Creating an accessible customer experience doesn't have to be an obstacle. It's quite the opposite; it's an opportunity for your company to build deeper connections with customers as well as business and government partners (think: diversity supplier programs).

Consider these four benefits when looking to amp up the accessibility of your CX.

1. Improve customer satisfaction

From cleaner web design to providing a greater array of customer support options, prioritizing accessibility provides a smoother, more enjoyable experience for all, regardless of ability.

Doing away with digital bells and whistles that add style but no substance to web pages and social properties can make your page more inviting. This includes eliminating things like a landing page video featuring flashing words or images, auto-playing sound or color combinations that make it difficult to read text.

Additionally, providing a multitude of customer service channels to meet the differing needs of your customers is key to providing accessible service. For example, verbal communication can be challenging for some, so an online chat option may be a valuable alternative. Additionally, interacting with a support agent in real time can be overwhelming. This is where self-serve options and a robust FAQ can shine and make your customers feel more comfortable. You could even take it a step further by offering live customer support in American Sign Language, as Google does with the help of TELUS International.

2. Reduce risk

Accessibility legislation may be complex, but it's critical that your brand follows the rules. If you don't, you may open yourself up to the threat of lawsuits. According to Accessibility.com, in 2021, 2,352 web accessibility lawsuits were filed in the U.S. alone, which represents a 14% increase year-over-year and signifies increasing attention to formal website accessibility complaints.

But it's not just about legal risks. Not prioritizing accessibility can leave a portion of your customers feeling alienated and could do significant damage to your brand's reputation, even leading to the erosion of your customer base. In fact, a 2022 Harris Poll found that three-quarters of consumers said that they had parted ways with a brand over a conflict in values.

3. Improve brand reputation

If inaccessibility can be damaging to your brand reputation, being a conscientious company (and being perceived as such) can do the opposite, and is growing increasingly valuable in the modern marketplace.

Customers are gaining awareness of systemic social inequalities, and are using their purchasing power to support diversity and inclusion. According to the aforementioned Harris Poll, a massive 82% of customers said they want a brand's values to align with their own. And, according to Accessibility.com, the pride associated with shopping inclusive brands motivates customers to share their experiences and recommendations, turning one loyal customer into many.

The ascent of environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting and investing, as well as diversity supplier programs over the past few years, are further evidence of this trend.

In addition to gender, ethnicity and LGBTQ+ inclusion, ESG diversity mandates are becoming more inclusive of people with disabilities. According to Disability:IN, a non-profit focused on disability inclusion and equality in business, disability inclusion has proven to be a powerful tool for companies to improve corporate performance and increase shareholder return.

4. Create new business opportunities

Becoming accessible is an innovation driver that helps you to design products and services for optimal performance. It also extends your market reach. With millions of Americans and more than a billion people worldwide living with at least one disability, there are countless unmet needs in the consumer marketplace that could be resolved through accessible design and CX. Committing to accessibility puts you in a position to earn the trust and some of the $490 billion of disposable income (and $21 billion in discretionary income) — identified by the American Institutes for Research — that is burning a hole in the pockets of Americans with disabilities.

In 2023 and beyond, businesses should go big on their accessibility efforts. After all, investing in customer accessibility isn't only the right thing to do; it's also the smart thing to do.

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