Accessibility in Customer Services

Accessibility in Customer Services

Customer Touch Point was delighted to have hosted the recent UK CCF webinar on accessible customer services, where talked through our best practice steps for more accessible services, and asked some live poll questions on how businesses are managing accessibility across policy, technology and agent training. 

  • What we mean by accessibility

  • The five steps every business should take to help them improve accessibility

Watch on-demand here:

Full Transcript


Chantelle Newton:  

Good afternoon, everybody. I hope you’re well. My name is Chantelle Newton and I’m the Marketing Manager at the UK Contact Centre Forum. So, today, I’m joined by two of the team at Customer Touch Point. We have Rick Kirkham, Founder and Managing Director, and Dougie Nicoll, Head of Digital and Customer Operations. So, to get today’s presentation started, I’m going to pass you over to Rick. Thanks, Rick.

Rick Kirkham:          

Thanks very much, Chantelle, and good morning, everybody…

Thanks very much for joining. We’re really passionate about this topic and accessibility in customer contact is such an important thing for reasons close to home and also just through experience of all the projects that we have done over the years.

So, I’ll just quickly touch on what we’re going to talk through. We’re going to look at defining what we mean by accessibility in this context and then we’ve got an approach based on five steps to success in this area and what we mean by success is to create an accessible for all customer contact operation.

Then, just summarise at the end and I think it’ll be really interesting with the polls that we go through. We’ve got some live polls here, but we’ve also been running a live survey for the last couple of months, which has been shared with many contact centre people and other industries via UKCFF and ourselves, so we’ll be able to compare and contrast the results that we get through those polls today with those other surveys that we’ve been running.

Then, talk through questions. As Chantelle rightly points out, we are going to take questions all the way through.

I’m very happy to have a conversation if anyone wants to pop a message in the chat and also wrap up and take some more at the end.

Towards the end, we’ll also just touch on what we actually do in this area as far as offering our customer experience accessibility audit, which is quite a new thing and in partnership with our charity partner, We Are Purple. So, we’ll talk a little bit about that and how you can access this as well. Then, we shall wrap up.

So, before we move into that, I will just try and make the slides move. There we go. So, yes, Dougie’s with me here speaking today as well.

About Rick Kirkham and his role at Customer Touch Point

Just a quick background on me. So, I’ve been working in customer contact improvement projects for around 15 years and set up Customer Touch Point six years ago. The reason I did that was, over the experience of those projects and previous roles beforehand, really developed a deep understanding of how customers interact with contact systems and, ultimately, remembering that, actually, we’re just people that go through these things and people that have feelings and react in certain ways to different things, either positively or negatively.

Actually, as well as making technology work in the right way and getting the best out of it, actually, we need to bring that understanding of people as well and behaviour and bring those two things together.

A business focused on win-win

As a business, anyone that has heard us speak before will know that we always talk about an approach to making everything that we do win-win and that’s making sure that everything we implement, and all the projects, actually win for the business by making them more efficient and enhancing their customer experience.

In doing so, as well, at the same time, one of the main ways you get that is actually improving the experience for customers, but also making sure they can interact well, they can communicate with you easily and efficiently. That doesn’t always mean taking a call, it might well mean encourage them and implementing strategies to help people self-serve more effectively as well, while also retaining the understanding that no matter how good and how much investment you put into digital platforms, for some reasons and for some people, they just want to talk to live people to get that human-type interaction. So, trying to bring all of that together. That’s a little bit on my background and I’ll just hand over to Dougie.

About Dougie Nicoll and his role at Customer Touch Point

Dougie Nicoll:          

Thanks, Rick. Morning, everyone. So, my name’s Dougie Nicoll, Head of Digital and Customer Ops at Customer Touch Point. My background’s very much customer-facing. I’ve been working with customers and accounts for over 20 years, been a contact centre manager and moved into the technology aspect, probably, about 15 years ago, so looking at designing technology, developing it, implementing it into businesses, integrating with current systems, how we best deploy that and how it works for the business, but also for the consumer. It’s really important to ensure that the technology is not just for the business just for the consumer, it has to be for both and has to be beneficial for both.

So, that’s, kind of, what I do in the business. If you ever interact with us, you’ll definitely come across me. So, apologies in advance for that, but I shall pass you back to Rick.

Rick Kirkham:          

You make everything happen, I think, Dougie. That’s the summary, get stuff done. So, thank you for that and, yes, really good valuable background, having worked in contact centres for so long and understanding what it’s like is a big benefit.

Delivering effortless customer experiences

So, I’ll just move on to setting the scene. We’ve talked a little bit about the business and I don’t want to labour this point today because we’re here to talk about the subject, but, really, as a business, we’re all about helping organisations to deliver effortless customer experiences while reducing the overall cost of contact, back to that win-win. On the diagram, there are four main points about that.  

Influencing customer behaviour

So, influencing customer behaviour. Again, just worth talking about influence as well there. So, what we mean by influence is influencing the outcome positively so that both parties benefit. It very much ties into the win-win aspect. So, if only one aspect, if only the business is going to benefit from something, then it’s not considered influence from our point of view, so it has to work for both. To do that, you have to really understand how to engage customers and get them being an active part of the journey that they’re going through.

Then, all the other aspects on there. The four parts of that circle all come together to create the type of contact centre operation that works for everybody involved.

An independent business working with well-known brands

Okay. Then, yes, so, again, just as a business, we’ve worked with a lot of well-known brands, a lot of complicated multi-site contact centre projects and, you know, that experience has taught us a lot, we’ve learned a lot from it and we always bring that with us. From a technology point of view, we’re completely independent as a business, we have no ties to any other business and that allows us to go out to the market and work with best of breed suppliers that we know well and, actually, really help to get the best out of those technologies as well. So, whatever… it can be a bit difficult, and Dougie will touch on this a bit later, to actually pick out the right technology for your needs and we can help with that as well.

Okay. So, moving onto accessibility itself, I just want to talk about what we mean. I think, previously, a lot of the physical aspects that were more visible are probably what people think about, but as contact centres tend to be remote, and particularly post-COVID, where a lot of face-to-face work was actually reduced or made almost impossible for a period of time, understanding, spotting and being able to do something about that accessibility issue for somebody has become harder.

What do we mean by accessibility?

So, sort of, one of the legal definitions is listed here, that could be vision-related, hearing-related, neurological limitations, learning disabilities, limited movement, speech disabilities and whether they’re affected by age or anything else. They all make it difficult for people or harder to interact with the contact centres and those kinds of operations.

The table on the right there, the image, is from our colleagues at We Are Purple and when we first started talking to them, just seeing some of those numbers really made it hit home, the number of people in the UK with a registered disability or an accessibility need. One on the right there, four million UK consumers have at least three impairments that would make contact difficult. The size and scale just hit home how important this is four us. Getting this right can really make a big difference to a lot of people, that’s why we care about it so much.

Now, also, having said all of that, you know, we’re working with businesses and organisations here that have to keep an eye on the financial side of it. So, the Purple Pound is what We Are Purple call it. I think, again, just pointing out that, actually, the customer base there that we’re talking about has a lot of spending power and the opportunity cost of not getting this right, by industry there, the figures, you know, banks or building societies, £935 million they estimate lost every year in revenue just by not being accessible or inclusive enough.

I think people talk a lot about customer experiences, and what that means and what it is. For us, we work very much in the space where people get in touch with you and, for us, if customer experience isn’t, ‘What’s it like for somebody when they try and contact you?” “We’re not quite sure what it is,” that’s what matters, that’s what makes the difference, but, also, to get projects signed off and to get funding within the business, we do need to be able to make a sound business case for that. So, I think if people need to feed back some of these stats, very happy to share them afterwards or send you the links to them. It can really help with that process of getting that backing.

Accessibility legislation

Okay. So, I wanted to just touch on legislation as well. There’s a lot of regulation around it and some of which doesn’t quite go far enough in our view to make this happen, but there are a couple of bits of legislation that really deal with this, the main one being the Equality Act from 2010, in simple terms, illegal to discriminate, and that, as part of that, if somebody has an accessibility need or a disability, then we need to make adjustments to accommodate.

So, whether it’s alternative contact methods or different channels for people, proactively suggesting solutions to help them make the right choices. Think about financial services or anything else like that, where you’ve got all that regulation around people being able to make an informed choice and understanding what they’re signing in any context is really important and that making sure they can get the documents, receive them, read them and understand them is a big part of that.

So, there is a strong legal aspect to this as well and I think as we go through, I’ll be interested, again, in those poll conversations that we’re going to have, but, certainly, our own survey touches on where there might be gaps in these areas as well, with people not quite thinking about it. So, we’ll see whether that carries on as well.

Okay. So, moving to the five steps. These are all the parts of the strategies that we support our clients with to improve their accessibility. So, we’ll look at corporate policy, customer experience technology, customer journey design, agent awareness and feedback as well. So, we’ll just go through these one by one. Having said that, we’re going to go straight into the first poll question, Chantelle.

Poll question 1 – Corporate Policy

Chantelle Newton:   Thanks, Rick. So, the question, …

Does your organisation have a specific corporate policy or strategy for accessibility in customer contact?

So, you can choose from yes, no or don’t know. Just give you a couple of seconds to vote on that one. Just a couple more seconds before I close that one off. Perfect. So, I’ll just close this one off and let’s have a look at the results.

There we go. So, 60% yes, 20% no and 20% don’t know, Rick.

Rick Kirkham:          

Okay. Thanks everybody for taking part in that. I think that’s interesting. Dougie, how does that compare with the other survey that we’ve run?

Dougie Nicoll:          

It was about 50/50 on corporate policy, so 50% do, 50% don’t. So, pretty similar, … I imagine, I can’t say for sure, but I imagine if you don’t know, then it’s possible that you don’t have one because you don’t know about it.

Rick Kirkham:          

I think that’s a really interesting point, because if people don’t know that there’s a policy, then how do you enact the policy? So, therefore, it’s a bit toothless anyway. So, it could be that those things align and going back to the point about the legislation and the importance of it, if it is 60/40 or even 70/30 don’t have a policy to deal with it, then that needs to be in place. Again, there’s always two ways of looking at this. There’s the right thing to do way of looking at it and there’s the, “We need to be doing it as well,” from a legislation point of view as well. Okay, that’s interesting. Thank you, Chantelle.

So, the reasons why we talk about this a lot, and I think we do find it in other, you know, non-accessibility-focused customer experience projects that we work on with our clients, is that just having a general customer experience strategy and a policy that people are aware of, it gives you, sort of, a guiding start that you need to align to, because if people are making changes to the operation in any way, if they don’t have those principles to align it to, it can become a bit disjointed and then you quite often find a situation where it’s not quite working for the business and it’s not quite working for the customers as well.

So, having that clear policy set out, a) it means the business needs to focus on it and acknowledge that it is important and that you’re going to do something about it. Then, the next step in that is really looking at with the business and to understand who their vulnerable customers are, what moments there are that might create a non-vulnerable customer into one and making sure that the business is empowered to put in place those adjustments that we’re going to need …

Also, win it from an operational, people in the business that are there to get things done, point of view. If you want to make those changes and instigate those projects, then if that policy’s in place and you know that the business wants to do it, it makes that sign-off process easier, but it also makes the ongoing governance easier as well, your change control. If you have that policy, you can make changes in line to it and you can ask people to assess whether the change they want to make aligns with that, whether it’s going to enhance accessibility or make it harder and everything else like that.

So, as you go through that, that’s the first one. So, if people are not there, we’d really recommend that you start to talk to the business about that.

Using the right technology

Okay. So, step number two, using the right technology in the right way. I’ll let Dougie talk about this for a moment.

Dougie Nicoll:          

Thanks, Rick. Yes. Good morning again, everyone. Okay. So, the next step is around technology, as Rick has said. The use of technology in your business can have major positive and negative impacts on how your customers experience interacting with your brand and your employees. So, it’s for that reason that we stress the importance of not only using the right technology, but understanding that each customer is different and they all have different needs, especially those vulnerable customers that may need a specific journey designed for their disability.

In an ideal world, you’d give your customers access to the latest technology across all your contact channels. However, we all live in the real world and, unfortunately, we know this is not practical for a whole raft of reasons.

Therefore, all you can do as a business is carefully choose the technology that best serves you as a business and your customers in the most inclusive and best way you can.

So, going back to that win-win situation, there’s no point in putting technology in place that suits you, but doesn’t suit your customers and, equally, that suits your customers, but then doesn’t suit you as a business. It has to work for both. If you do that, then you’re giving yourself the best chance of delivering a good customer experience.

So, combining this approach along with specific customer journey designs, which Rick will talk about later, will give you the opportunity to deliver the best experience possible. I’m going to touch on some of the technologies, some of the accessible technology out there in this space that’ll help your vulnerable customers.

Different types of technologies you can leverage to improve accessibility – let’s start with Dynamic FAQs

These are things like connected dynamic FAQs. So, I’m sure you’re all familiar with traditional FAQs, they typically sit on a contact us or a help page of a website and they’re very much one-dimensional. Connected FAQs take this experience to the next level, firstly by dynamically displaying the relevant FAQs in a pop-up widget, like a live chat sort of widget, for the topic or webpage that you’re viewing. They also give you, as a business, important MI around views, interaction, allow you to continuously improve the effectiveness of these.  

It’s important to think about digital and telephony in this aspect of connected FAQs. Quite often, businesses will deploy a digital solution thinking, “Oh, that’s it. We’ve solved our problem,” and forget the connection between the real person in your business and the customers’ journey.

So, connected FAQs bridge that gap because you can take whenever a customer is going through the FAQ journey, a customer has a route back into a live agent, whether that be through live chat or through the telephone. The information from the FAQs that they’ve looked at is transferred to the agent before the call or the live chat is connected, so the agent knows and understands what you’ve tried to find out, but you’ve obviously not got that information correctly or we’ve been unable to help you with the FAQ and you need a little bit more help, but it’s about bridging that gap between the two. The next one is CCaaS.

Rick Kirkham:          

Sorry, just to add something to that quickly. So, I think it’s a really important point about the digital first strategy and a lot of organisations do tend to think that that will solve the problems, but, you know, there are a lot of other factors that determine whether people just want to speak to you for reasons of trust, or reassurance or a big one is working through whether that reason for contact is urgent, emotional or complex. I think particularly in this scenario, even if you’ve got the digital option there, you’re going to have people that want to break out and reach that live support.

I saw some stats yesterday, as it happens, for one of the big mobile companies who has been investing in digital for 20 years, went very big on the web and app development very early on, but even them, having spent all of that money, 5% of their interactions still come through to live support, predominantly on the phone in that case. For them, that’s still 120,000 phone calls a day across their European division, so there’s always going to be that need and having the connection, there is generally quite a gap, you know, a lot of places, between digital and phone and people get frustrated when they have to start again, they’ve been through a digital journey.

With those stats in mind, I think this would really improve that experience, but it reduces the time taken on the call, it reduces the AHT of that as well. So, sorry, I didn’t mention that to you before, Dougie, but I saw those stats. I thought they were quite pertinent.

Contact Centre as a Service (CCaaS)

Dougie Nicoll:          

No problem. Okay. So, the next one is CCaaS, omnichannel, contact centre as a service. These platforms are fantastic at connecting all your contact channels into a single viewer for your agents. This helps to reduce the need for customers to repeat previous contacts across multiple channels. There’s nothing worse than emailing a company or talking to them on social media and then you have to pick up the phone and the person on the other end of the phone has no idea what you talked about before because the social media channel is across the other side of the office and great businesses, they don’t talk to each other. So, CCaaS platforms connect that together.

They also allow you to set flags for specific customers who have accessibility issues and this opens up doors for automation, direct route into specialist teams, even bypassing IVR journeys altogether.


So, if a customer that has a real need just to speak to someone, they can’t navigate an IVR, then there’s no point in asking them to do that, because all you’re going to do is antagonise them and irritate them further and make that journey and that experience a lot more stressful. So, why not just flag that phone number. When it calls in, route it straight to a specialist team or a specialist agent that’s assigned to those calls that day.

Real-time and post-call analytics

The next one is real-time and post-call analytics. Now, this piece of technology will allow you to really understand who your customers are, what they’re calling about and what, if any, accessibility needs they have. We’ve got a large list of keywords relating to vulnerable customers that can be quickly deployed in the analytics solution and this’ll help you to either identify those needs in real time, so popping up for an agent on their screen, or on a post-call. Using this technology can better serve your customers in the moment and in the future.

Visual IVR

Finally, the one I want to talk about today is visual IVR. I’m going to delve into this in a little bit more detail on the next slide, but, first, we have another poll question, so I’ll hand over to Chantelle for that one.

Poll question 2 – CX Technology

Chantelle Newton:  

Thanks, Dougie. [Poll number 2]…

So, does your organisation utilise specific technologies to manage or improve accessibility? Again, your options are yes, no or don’t know. So, I’ll just give you a couple of seconds to vote on that one. Don’t forget to post your questions in the chat box at any time and I’ll put your questions to Rick and Dougie. Join in the conversation with us. Just a couple more seconds now. Perfect. Thank you. So, that poll is now closed and here are your results. So, yes 78%, no 11%, and 11% no. Over to you, Rick.

Rick Kirkham:          

Yes, that’s fantastic. It’s great to hear people are doing that, even if there’s a… it sounds like more people are using that technology than there are policies in the background, so that’s really good to hear. Dougie, how does that compare with the wider survey?

Dougie Nicoll:          

It’s a little bit different. 60/40 for using the technology against not using the technology or specific technology.

Rick Kirkham:          

Yes, okay. That’s great. A conversation for another day, but I’d be really interested to understand what people are using to do that specifically, but that’s great to hear. Okay. Thanks, Chantelle.

How can technology to improve accessibility?

Dougie Nicoll:          

Okay. Here are just some ideas about using tech to improve accessibility. Technology has moved on and advanced so much over the years that it’s now quite easy to identify, manage and improve accessibility and inclusion needs. You can improve telephony menus, make sure the language is clear, and it’s well-articulated and spoken at a steady pace. Now, that really isn’t just for accessibility, that’s something that you should be trying to adhere to all the time. Just because someone doesn’t have an accessibility issue, it doesn’t mean that they don’t need language that’s clear, well-articulated or spoken at a good pace.

There’s some software and systems out there that you can install for number recognition, so you can auto-route and bypass your IVR altogether. We talked about that before. Voice and text analytics, it just indicates in real time any accessibility needs or vulnerabilities.

Rick Kirkham:          

I think that’s a big step forward in analytics now. Post-call has been there for some time, but, actually, being able to send a prompt to an agent in the middle of a conversation to highlight something that they may have missed in a conversation. So, if they’ve spotted somebody taking a while to understand something, or do something about it or make a decision, it could pop up that to the agent who can adapt their conversation, but, as well as that, you can prompt the agent and signpost them to support strategies as well. It’s something else we’ll come onto, but that in the moment analytics is quite powerful.

Dougie Nicoll:          

Thanks, Rick. So, visual IVR, some of you may have heard of this, some of you may have not. It’s reasonable new technology, not utilised in the UK as much as we would like. It’s used a lot in the US. So, basically, it delivers a digital self-service alternative to your vulnerable customers, allowing customers to navigate through your menu at their own pace. In layman’s terms, it transfers your IVR menu into a visual menu, if you like, on your smartphone.

There are lots of benefits to it, one of these being that it eliminates traditional issues for those hard of hearing. Anyone who is completely deaf can’t use your phone system, unless they know it off by heart. This allows them to contact you, get the same experience, but a more enriched experience, but it allows them to do it at their own pace.

There are also video calls in the platform, so if somebody wants to do sign language or a more personalised service or it may be that a customer just really struggles to comprehend or understand what you’re saying and, visually, you can show them a product or you could talk them through if there’s a difficult document that they need to complete, you know, it could be for a mortgage application or anything like that, you could do that with them via a video call and that’s all contained within the platform.

It’s completely cloud-based, so there’s no software that you need to install. It’s a full end-to-end automation, so the customer can enter that themselves, they can do what they need to do, they can make a payment and they can finish the transaction without any contact from your business whatsoever. It’s a multi-channel that can be delivered across websites, email, digital business cards, however you want to… it’s just a link, basically, so however you want to display that link or get your customers into that, it can happen.

It’s a fraction of the cost of taking a telephony call. So, you know, you imagine if your agent is tied up on a call for 20 minutes, half-an-hour, all it is is one connection cost. So, the call come in or the communication comes in through the visual IVR, it’s connected and that’s the cost of it. It doesn’t matter if they’re on there for an hour or for five minutes, it’s one cost. Through previous case studies and customers that we’ve dealt with, it has an 80% containment rate. So, if we can get people into the visual IVR, 80% of them will stay there and self-serve. You sounded like you were going to say something there, Rick.


Rick Kirkham:          

Yes, I was just going to say, that’s a huge figure, but the really important part of it as well, because there is, as well as the visual experience, there is a live call running in the background, if somebody does need to break out and speak to somebody, like we touched on before, having that way out, that it’s there and all that information flows as well. So, again, if you do get to the point where they need live support, then the information travels, the call’s quicker and it’s a really strong experience.

Dougie Nicoll:          

Yes. It’s already pre-configured with your typical out-the-box solutions, like Salesforce, Zendesk, ServiceNow, all that kind of stuff, so it can be easily deployed and connected to your existing technology. If we don’t have a toolkit for the technology you have, then we can develop that and work with you to ensure that the information travels through into your own CRM or your own platform that you use internally.

Rick Kirkham:          

Yes, great. Thanks, Dougie. Yes, there are so many use cases. 

How does customer journey design play a part? 

Rick Kirkham:          

Yes, thank you. So, step three is about journey design. So, we do a lot of customer journey design work and, again, this is really where that foundation of the business came from all those years ago, which is understanding the blend of technology, but customer behaviour going through it … we’re always conscious of the behaviour that’s going on in here and the behaviour within a customer journey is directly affected by the emotions that people feel during it.

So, if a customer is stressed and irritated, they’re going to come through to agents in that state and it’s a harder call to handle, but, also, they’re not going to interact with the journey effectively at all. They’ll just be trying to zero out, or reach somebody, or say complaints or anything that they think is going to get them answered more quickly. So, we need to really understand that throughout journey design, we need to set them up in a way and design them in a way that engages people so that they’re calm, and that they’re relaxed and they’re going to go with us in the journey.

If you create that situation, actually, a lot of organisations tend to feel that that will encourage contact, but it’s completely the opposite in our experience. If you engage people when you get to that point of having a self-serve opportunity or something that people can do themselves, they will readily take it because it’s just a natural thing for them to do. Then, if they do come through to people, they’re in a better state of mind, the call’s easier to handle and tends to be shorter. The chance of a good outcome from that is vastly improved.

There’s a lot of research there. We’ve got some quotes from Ofcom, which is a really good resource in this area, that shows the needs of disabled and people with accessibility needs find it really difficult interacting with contact centres. So, we’ve got a few tips on there. Dougie touched on a couple before, but I think always leaving a route out of a self-serve journey, this, for me, is one of the key areas where an organisation demonstrated its values.

Banking use case – poor journey design and customer experience

I was calling a bank at the weekend, just doing some personal admin. They’ve put a speech recognition system in and I had to repeat myself eight times, it wasn’t understanding me. I’d had a flag from the bank saying can I please ring the fraud department? So, looked up the number on the net, got back through to them, was going through their speech recognition, all I was saying is, “It’s to report a fraud,” and it didn’t recognise that and eight times before it let me out. Really bad experience and that’s just for me. If there’s any other issue going on there, it would make it really difficult, and stressful and upsetting for people to deal with that, so always having a route out.

As organisations and firms like ourselves, we’re responsible for putting these journeys there. If we take these things and have these as principles when we’re designing them, then it really resolves the issue. So, having the route out and not making people go through too many repetitions, being clear with the language and instructions. A big one in telephony is allowing time to respond and even building in times to pause if you’re giving information there, which you can absolutely do now. Again, good practice anyway. If you rush people or they’re feeling under pressure, it’s very difficult, particularly if there’s a reason why it takes them a bit longer to respond and take in the information as well. Give people the option to repeat.

Again, thinking about… a lot of organisations, sort of, 15 or so years ago, some of these earlier systems were set up to be a barrier to stop people coming through and there are some of those traits still there, but, actually, if you do all of these things, it completely turns it on its head and it gives people the experience they need. They’re calm, they’re relaxed, they’re engaged. Everything gets better from there, it’s a better experience and it’s a cheaper contact to handle for the organisation as well. Always coming back to those two dual goals. So, yes, just moving into the next poll question, whether we have a defined…

Poll 3 – Customer Journey Design

Chantelle Newton:  

So, our next poll, the question is do you have a defined approach or technique to making customer journeys accessible? As before, you’ve got yes, no or don’t know answers. I’ll just give you a couple of seconds.

It’s interesting what you were saying, Rick, with not recognising your voice because it’s not even like you’ve got, sort of, a thick accent or anything like that. It’s quite shocking, really.

Rick Kirkham:          

Yes. There was no background noise or anything, it just hadn’t been tuned well enough. The recognition on it just wasn’t working. In particular… and that wasn’t me calling in, that was the bank that had asked me to call them and put that journey in the way. It’s all of these decisions made and we have to take responsibility for the journeys that are implemented, we really do have to bear this in mind and really, we’ll come onto it later in more detail, but experiencing it as a customer is the biggest thing.

Chantelle Newton:  

There we go. Your results. So, we’ve got 63% at yes, 25% at no and 13% at don’t know.

Rick Kirkham:          

Yes, okay. That’s really encouraging. We didn’t ask this one in the wider survey, we just wanted to check in with people on the call about this one. So, that’s really good for people that are doing it or people that aren’t quite doing it yet, I’d be very happy to talk through some of the strategies that you can implement and the guidelines on that one. Again, linking that back to the policy, if that approach or methodology is there, change control going forward, you have something to align it to, so really encouraging to see that as well.

Agent awareness and signposting

So, moving onto the step four, the agent awareness and signposting. So, we know a lot of people will do training with agents and this… we’re starting to think about this one. About a year ago, in the middle of lockdown, my wife’s nan is 98 and she was not seeing anybody, she doesn’t see too well herself anyway, so we wanted to give her a tablet or an ability to video call with people. So, we’ve been working on getting broadband in there for a couple of years and we finally got there on that.

So, we were trying to organise this and Joan had been talking to the telecoms company and my wife and I have authority to speak on the account as well, but they needed to speak to her about accessing the property. Then, when she was told it was going through, the agent on the phone said to her, “Right. Of course, now that you’ve got broadband, we’re going to start charging you £3.50 for your printed statements.” So, said, “Right, okay,” and came off the phone and called us, didn’t understand it, was quite upset about it, you know, why does she have to start paying for statements?

So, we then had to ring them back and it took four or five phone calls to get through and speak to the person that was sorting it out. Ultimately, there were a lot of indicators there. Once we’d had conversations saying, “Why on earth are you doing this? We’ve put broadband in because she can’t see very well,” they said, “Oh, right, okay. So, the large-print statements are free, so that’s not a problem.”

So, there was an opportunity there for that awareness, spotting the issue. There were a number of signals, we felt, on that one, the age, the fact we’ve got authority on the account and a few other things. They could have offered the large statements, but, also, so there’s the customer calling in aspect to that, but not having been able to spot that, it just increased the demand of phone calls by 300%, 400%, when we had to try and get back through and sort it out.

So, I think this is a really big factor… That’s why we’re really keen to encourage and work with people to do that and really give agents tools and strategies to actually do something about it. The agents we work with are always very keen to do the right thing and make a difference in general and are pleased to be able to help people like this, so giving them the ability to spot, but then the ability to actually do something practical to help, they really enjoy having that.

The fact that 4%, in general… because Direct Marketing Association research here, again, another really good resource, has stuck out quite strongly for us. So, we’ll move onto the next poll question.

Dougie Nicoll:          

This goes back … to the technology aspect of if that first person that spoke to you who was able to put a flag on your wife’s nan’s account, then none of that would have happened and that flag could then immediately automate large-print statements. Large-print statements have no charge, therefore it doesn’t lead to telling customers they’re going to be charged. So, you know, a simple piece of technology and a simple process could have eliminated all that contact and all that stress.

Rick Kirkham:          

Yes, you’re absolutely right. So, do something now to prevent those calls. Yes, absolutely. Okay. Chantelle, if you could run this one.

Poll 4 – accessibility tools and strategies

Chantelle Newton:   So, our next poll. Do your agents have specific tools and strategies that they can use when they spot an accessibility issue? So, again, it’s yes, no or don’t know. I’ll just give you a couple of seconds to answer that one. Okay. I’m going to close that one off and here are your results.

So, yes 63%, no 25% and don’t know 13%.

Rick Kirkham:          

Yes. Very much in line with the last answer, actually, around the technology side. So, yes, again, interesting. Great that those strategies are in there, but still quite a large gap potentially and, again, just making people aware. As technology develops as well, what we’re tending to find is you can combine a lot more things into single screens, and add your own buttons and customise things as well. If you make it part of the requirements of either bringing in new or redeveloping existing technology, there’s a great deal that can be done there and help people. So, again, encouraging numbers. Thanks, Chantelle.

Okay. So, I expect many of you will be aware of a lot of these things, but the big one is recognising the size and understanding how to adapt the conversation based on that. As you mentioned before, logging it on the customer record means that the next time the person comes in, we can, sort of, bypass things and get through to the right people and then offering those alternative services we’ve touched on there and, you know, all sorts of sign language services in particular. We work with a couple of companies that are either putting a lot of sign language on the web or interpretation services and relating that back to things like visual IVR. That’s a great way of connecting those kinds of services in at a relative low cost as well, start to bring it all together. Okay.

Poll 5 – feedback on accessibility issues

So, step five here, internal and external feedback. We’re going to go straight into a poll here, please, Chantelle.

Chantelle Newton:  

Definitely. So, the last poll. Does your organisation actively gather feedback on accessibility-related issues from customers and/or agents? So, again, you’ve got a yes, no, don’t know answer on that one. I’ll just give you a couple of seconds. Perfect. Let’s close that one off and here are your results. So, yes 50%, no 38% and don’t know 13%.

Rick Kirkham:          

Yes, okay. Thanks, Chantelle. Again, this wasn’t in the wider survey. So, yes, I think that’s really interesting. In general, agent feedback is often not taken as much as customer and, actually, people that are out there handling the calls have got a wealth of information. Certainly, when we sit down and listen to the calls at the start of a project, we’re very open and honest about how things are working there. So, if you can come back to the webinar for me, Chantelle, as well, we’ve just got some thoughts on the kinds of questions to ask that will help us there through surveys and…

Chantelle Newton:   There we go.

Customer feedback mechanisms

Rick Kirkham:          

Certainly… thank you. From customer-facing survey points of view. CSAT and NPS are still predominant measures out there and allow an element of benchmarking, but we often find that a lot more actual pragmatic value comes through customer effort, particularly in these areas, asking people just how easy or difficult it was to resolve their query today and if it’s a high-effort area, asking people what was high effort about it. We’ve done a lot of projects where there has always been a little nugget of information in there.

There are a number that stand out for me with people just saying, “I called you about this, but it would have really made my life easier if you’d have done this as well,” and actually taking that feedback through into the business and doing something practical with that and then communicating back with the customers what you have done, really makes that a valued feedback loop there.

So, if you’re not measuring effort at the moment, you could really tune it to this as well and those verbatim comments as well, always a good amount of useful information in there and people are quite honest if they’re taking the time to do feedback, and listening to them and transcribing them or maybe doing some analytics on it as well will really help going forward. So, yes, really encourage agents to [gather feedback] … we do a lot of employee engagement surveys and things like that, but actually surveying agents and people in the contact centres about similar issues can add a great deal of value in our experience. Okay.

Five steps in summary

So, in summary, the five steps that are discussed there when working with our clients, really, in all of those elements or parts of them, you know, fill in the gaps for people. For a business like us, it either tends to be we come in and work with people where they have a particular skill set that they need for a short period of time or just a lack of capacity to get some things done that they want to, they’re very happy to work in either situation, but working on all of those five steps will help to create that really accessible customer contact operation, improve customers’ experience and, ultimately, reduce cost of contact as well for the business.

We need to not be afraid to talk commercially about this. People do have figures to think about and budgets and we can be perfectly open about this and, yes, right thing to do, but let’s make it commercially viable as well. A really big factor is having an independent view on how to use technology. There’s so much out there. How do you find the right ones, new ones to bring in or how do you build accessibility and other requirements into procurement processes? All sorts of aspects like that and being an independent view with multiple partners and being able to go whole of market, what people need is to give that viewpoint as well, can add a lot of value. Then, implementing those other strategies onto that technology and combination works really well.

I touched on before about experiencing things from a customer point of view. We always talk about this and it’s such a big factor that a lot of organisations don’t seem to do. When we go in and we do that through our experience audit processes, we are quite surprised at some of the results that come out of that. So, you know, we’re always looking through everything we do, that’s the idea of engage-to-influence™, positively influence behaviour and making it win-win, so that it does work for everybody and that’s the real foundation of what we do.

That’s why we developed an accessibility audit

We’ve had a general customer experience audit for a number of years now, which looks at all aspects of all contact channels and comes up with a really detailed picture of what’s working well, where you can improve and it helps you understand with a great deal of precision where the investment needs to go and, actually, the benefits from that and a roadmap of improvements.

Recently, in this last year or so, we’ve got so passionate about the subject that we’ve developed a CX audit focused on accessibility, which looks at the five steps there. As well as bringing our experience to this through our partnership with We Are Purple, what we actually have, as well as just going through these audits from a customer view ourselves, we have a panel of people with a range of disabilities and people that have different accessibility needs themselves that can actually go through those journeys and contribute to the audit. It’s unique, as far as we’re aware, and that combination of their experiences coming in make it true to life, adds a great deal of value through this process.

So, once we’ve done that, we come back and have a dashboard, that idea of, “Okay, what has it told us? Where do we need to focus? What’s working really well? Let’s replicate success as well,” because that’s a big part of these things, is pointing out what’s doing really well, proving that back to the business and saying, “We need to do more of this, let’s replicate this out,” but also saying, “Actually, there are some issues here. These are causing a problem. It’s costing you this much money potentially. So, what can we do to sort that out and generate a return on investment at the same time?”

So, anyone who’s interested in taking that forward, then do let us know.

Just some contact details there and we’re very happy to take any additional questions, or thoughts or comments. 

Questions and Answers

Chantelle Newton:  

That’s great. Thank you, Rick. Thank you, Dougie. Yes, if you’ve got any questions after the webinar as well, please feel free to reach out to either Rick or Dougie directly. As you can see, their contact details are on the screen and I will ensure that they are in the follow-up email that will be sent to everybody as well. So, I’m just going to double-check here.

So, we’ve just got a couple of questions. Let me have a look. Dougie, I think this one’s more for you.

So, is going totally digital the answer to the accessibility and vulnerability issues?

Dougie Nicoll:

No, definitely not, purely for the fact that not every disability can use a digital channel. If you’re blind, for example, using a digital channel will be very difficult, unless you have very specific technology and software yourself. So, what’s important is to understand who your customers are, what their needs are and then designing the technology and the journeys around that, so that you can include as many people as possible.

One of the things I was thinking about just as the webinar was going on is you see a lot of companies and websites that offer the website in multiple languages. Now, there are a lot of businesses that do that that probably don’t have many visitors from other languages, but they do it because it’s quite easy technology to deploy and it’s easy to translate your website. Same thing with accessibility, but it’s not as common and it should be way more common because it’s a much bigger issue. So, yes, going digital is not the answer, being inclusive is the answer.

Rick Kirkham:          

Yes. I think the stats about that telecoms company who’d put the huge investment in, people, ultimately, you know, sometimes, just need a connection to that live support and then… so, if you’re going to have digital, link it together, allow the information to flow. That’s a big business benefit of that and if people get frustrated in our experience by having to start again, there are still so many gaps between digital experiences and live support and there don’t need to be now, there are plenty of solutions there.

We understand the need for people to self-serve where possible, but if they don’t, when they need to break out for whatever reason, being able to connect in without having to start again is really efficient from the business point of view and provides that experience as well. So, yes, good question. Thank you.

Chantelle Newton:  

I suppose it’s more of a balancing act as well, isn’t it, really? If you do one thing, you could be discriminating against somebody else with a different disability in total. So, it’s being level planed across the board to cater for everybody, isn’t it?

Dougie Nicoll:          

Yes, absolutely.

Rick Kirkham:          

Yes, that’s right.

Dougie Nicoll:          

If you can… you’re never going to please everyone and you’re never going to solve everyone’s problem. If you can do your best to include everyone and offer an alternative contact method for people, then you’re doing everything that you can physically do as a business.

Rick Kirkham:          

Yes, I’d agree. Part of that is defining it through that corporate policy element, actually, what do we mean by this, what does it involve, what are the specifics? If you can get that in there, then, again, you can start to work that through and make sure you solve the issues in the policy. Yes.

Chantelle Newton:  

That, sort of, leads onto the next question, actually.

So, how do you know which technology to use from everything that’s available?

Dougie Nicoll:          

Do you want to answer that one, Rick, or shall I?

Rick Kirkham:          

No, go on.

Dougie Nicoll:          

Yes. So, that’s done through a process, really. We’re technology-agnostic. So, we would come in, we would do an audit, we would put a design in place. At the end of all of that and all the strategy work that we would do, we will have a set of requirements and then we go out to market to find the technology that fits your needs and the requirements as best as possible. So, we have access to all of the latest contact centre technology, we have access to other customer contact technology, payment technology, whatever it is you need. We’ve got developers.

There’s not a lot that we can’t do, but it’s very important to specifically choose the one that’s going to create that win-win for you and for your customers and that’s done through a process of discovery, design and implementation, really.

Rick Kirkham:          

Yes, I would totally agree. Once you’ve got that technology that can do it, it’s then implementing those design strategies on top of it as well and maximising the benefits that that brings and bringing it all together. Also, where you do need different bits of technology from different places, it’s understanding that upfront and then working on how you’re going to make it all communicate and allow that information to flow through it. Again, that’s something I have a lot of experience in to make that happen, because it’s probably less often to find one solution that does everything you need it to do, so there’s going to be multiple solutions in there, so then it’s making that all flow together seamlessly is a big one.

Dougie Nicoll:          

Yes, buying technology is quite daunting for any business, especially if it’s a new technology and you’re going to change every… you know, fundamentally, how you operate. So, we can help with that. There are other businesses that can help with that, but it’s having that partner in place that can seamlessly make that transition for you is very beneficial. We use the technology every day, we understand it, we help with its design and its development. So, that’s… but it’s important to recognise that it is a daunting experience.

Rick Kirkham:          

Yes, it certainly can be, can’t it?

Dougie Nicoll:          

Yes, but we can make it easier.

Rick Kirkham:          

Conscious of time now, Chantelle, and also conscious that we could talk about this subject for much longer than we have here.

Chantelle Newton:  

Hours. Absolutely, yes.

Rick Kirkham:          

Yes. If there are any other questions, do you want to drop them over to me and we can come back to people individually, rather than overrunning, because I know people have got things to go off and do…

Chantelle Newton:  

That’s great. Thank you. So, the session was recorded today. The link will be emailed to you all within the next 24 hours. Please feel free to share this with any colleagues. We do have a very short survey that will appear after the webinar today, just feedback that is valuable to making sure that we keep improving these sessions for you and tailoring them to your needs.

For a full list of all the upcoming UKCCF webinars, please visit our events page on our website, www.uk-ccf.co.uk/events. We look forward to welcoming you all again soon. Thank you very much. Stay safe and goodbye. Thank you everybody.

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