Originally written by Timothy Adler about Small Business
Many small businesses are preparing to welcome customers back in the coming months as lockdown measures wear off. However, as the social contact restrictions persist, it will not be entirely “business as normal”. Businesses need to think creatively about how to attract customers.
Attract old customers
The premises must continue to meet strict Covid-proof requirements when they reopen, but it’s a start and customers are just as excited to be back and spend their money as companies are supposed to serve them.
The Eat Out to Help Out program, which ran in August 2020, may have had its critics, but the huge surge in table reservations – a 53 percent increase over the same period in 2019 – shows the public’s willingness to come back to it Buy goods and services.
There’s a lot of lost time to make up for this, and companies need to think creatively about ways to bring old customers back to their premises and services while attracting new customer groups at the same time.
> See also: What are the advantages of agile working? – a guide for small businesses
Attract customers with disabilities
Disabled customers are a group that is most often overlooked and misunderstood. Most people think of wheelchair users when they think about access to disabilities. In fact, less than 8 percent of disabled people in the UK use a wheelchair. The large number of disabilities – over 90 percent – is not visible. This includes people with learning difficulties, sensory impairments and mental illnesses, as well as people with neurodiverse diseases such as autism and dyslexia.
All companies are required to make their products and services accessible to disabled people under the Equality Act (2010). However, having the right accessibility and awareness of disabilities is not only right, it’s good for business too.
The annual purchasing power of disabled people and their families is estimated at around £ 274 billion in the UK alone and is increasing.
Many small business owners will understandably not be willing to increase their costs once we reopen, but there are plenty of free things your business can do right away to help become more accessible to disabled customers.
8 Ways To Make Your Small Business More Disability Aware
# 1 – Offer a variety of ways to contact you
Always give your customers the choice of how they want to contact your company. This helps customers who encounter obstacles with one method to overcome them by using another. For example, someone who has difficulty communicating over the phone due to a hearing impairment can contact your company by email or text for the same request. Offering alternative contact methods will make your business more accessible and make disabled customers less likely to go elsewhere.
# 2 – Make customers aware that you are providing accessibility
Promote the good work you do to make your business accessible. Let disabled customers know that you are committed to enhancing their shopping experience with inclusions on your website, including disabled people in your images, and making your commitment to accessibility more visible in your branding, products and services. This way, disabled customers know that you have considered them and that they can be comfortable discussing their requirements.
“It is likely that at least one in five of your customers will have a disability.”
# 3 – Never assume the presence or absence of disability
It is likely that at least one in five of your customers will have a disability and many will have a disability that is not immediately apparent. Just the simple question “Can I help with anything?” can encourage the customer to tell you what they need. Don’t be ashamed if you say or do the wrong thing. Some disabled customers may feel unsafe asking for help and appreciate proactive customer service. Always keep an eye out for and offer assistance to anyone who may need additional assistance, whether or not you think the person has a disability.
> See also: How to let your employees know that they are working fewer hours
# 4 – Be (assistant) pet friendly
Grant access to assistance and therapy dogs. Assistance and therapy dogs offer important support to a large number of disabled people and people with long-term illnesses. You can pick up an ‘Assistance Dogs Welcome’ sign for as little as £ 3 and open your doors to customers with visual impairments.
# 5 – Customers feel safe
There has been a lot of misunderstanding in the media regarding Covid-19 and disability. Not everyone with a disability is more susceptible to Covid, but more than half of the people who have died from the disease have been disabled.
It is important to create environments where customers feel safe and know that their needs are being taken into account. You can help make the shopping experience safer and make disabled customers feel more comfortable by continuing some of the prevention measures implemented during the pandemic. These include hand sanitizing stations, distancing themselves while queuing to pay for goods, and contactless delivery of goods.
# 6 – Be patient and give customers extra time to get things done
Some people may need additional time to pay for goods or fill out a form. Always be patient and never rush the customer even if other customers are waiting.
# 7 – Be ready to help your customers take their purchases home with them
Always have information about public transport available, including the number of taxis available. Chances are your client has already thought about it, but it’s always helpful to have these details on hand just in case.
# 8 – Disability awareness benefits everyone
Companies that are aware of a disability know that it not only benefits disabled customers, but benefits everyone. Ultimately, it is beneficial for companies to have the right accessibility. For example, access ramps not only help wheelchair users, but also parents with buggies. Good customer service practices such as asking if customers need help not only give disabled customers a chance to discuss their needs, but also lets all of your customers know that you want to listen to them and support them.
Parma Sira is a small business disability consultant for SMEs in Smarter London
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8 Ways To Make Your Small Business More Disability Aware