Is your organization interested in customer service and in keeping your audience base as it ages?
Market-focused business managers are moving beyond the compliance mindset to the realization that making their businesses and/or programs accessible to everyone is simply good customer service. These business owners and service providers are breaking new ground going beyond the “compliance” measures laid out in the Americans with Disabilities Act and instead focus on customer needs and desires. They embrace the “spirit of the law” and use it as an effective marketing tool.
Visit stores, museums and other venues catering to families and senior citizens and you see subtle measures designed to increase the customer’s experience. Items addressed by accessibility laws are certainly present such as curb cuts, gently sloping ramps and automatic doors. But these basic, foundation accommodations are embraced as marketing tools to increase the “customer experience”. Lowered countertops allow patrons to easily complete transactions. Wider aisles allow scooter access while increasing merchandise visibility. Large easy to read signage reduces frustration in locating items. However, these businesses have found their niche by going beyond the basics.
Savvy business owners are learning low cost/no cost accommodations can increase customer satisfaction. Small tables strategically placed beside manually operated doors allow individuals to sit down packages while opening the door. Benches or chairs placed at regular intervals allow rest breaks. Brochures and other printed materials are printed in large plain script on non glossy paper. Background music is low and lights are bright in consideration of customers with hearing loss or vision impairments. Aisles are clear, chairs are pushed in under tables and loose merchandise is up off the floor whenever possible. Hotels are being built with low threshold showers, eliminating the seldom used, hard to clean bathtubs. Accessible “family bathrooms” have become a welcome standard in family friendly venues. Business owners who have focused on the “spirit of the law” have positioned their businesses to increase their customer base now and in the future.
Approach accessibility solutions as you would any other marketing effort and continually ask customers “what can I do to improve your experience?” You might be pleasantly surprised to discover new and easy ways to improve accessibility and increase your customer base. For additional ideas, contact your nearest Center for Independent Living.
Audrey Schremmer is the Executive Director of Three Rivers Inc. She considers it a blessing to be surrounded by great team members, her peers around the state and country and of course her four legged friends that come with her to work everyday.
Audrey Schremmer-Philip, Executive Director