Make your site and e-mail easier for all your customers.
I talk a lot about building relationships with customers on their terms. Many of my columns focus on the different ways to interact with customers that make sense to them: understanding cultural differences, channel preferences, and language usage.
What I haven't covered yet are ways to make customer interactions easy to understand for people who have visual or aural impairments. In making the changes we'll discuss today, you'll not only be making it easier for those customers to interact with you, but you'll also make your Web site and e-mail campaigns easier to understand for all your customers.
Accessibility Is Actually Good Design
In its simplest terms, "accessibility" means designing and coding your Web site and e-mail to be understandable by people with impairments and technologies that assist them.
The National Center for Health Statistics says 7.4 million people in the U.S. use assistive technology devices to aid hearing, which is only a small percentage of the 28 million Americans reported to have some degree of hearing loss (according to the National Association of the Deaf). Lighthouse International says one in six people (17 percent) age 45 or older reports a vision impairment. Approximately 3 million (1.7 percent) people under 45 report having a vision impairment -- and those numbers are just in the U.S.
Computers are a viable outlet for the hearing impaired for many reasons; socially and the fact the Web is primarily a visual medium. The vision impaired are also online, thanks to screen readers and Braille browsers.
To properly prepare Web sites and e-mail for full accessibility, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has a Web Accessibility Initiative, with guidelines for proper coding and design of Web sites.
Where Does CRM Fit In?
If CRM (define) is about creating a meaningful relationship with customers and meeting their needs, then accessibility is a vital need you must address. It's as important as understanding your customers' language.
Many companies fear "converting" their sites into accessible ones will take a long time and a lot of money. But if your site isn't already basically accessible, you've done something wrong. The site is probably difficult to understand for all users, not just those with impairments.
Below is a quick checklist of accessibility basics and tips on converting your current site into a more accessible version. This list is by no means exhaustive. I encourage you explore the above resources for more information on Web accessibility.
Is That All?
Of course not! I've hardly cracked this topic's surface. I offer the above to drill home two ideas: Accessibility is a must, and it isn't as hard as you think.
Take a look at the ample resources available on the Web, and make your Web sites, e-mail marketing campaigns, and CRM strategies more accessible. You'll open your doors to new customers and create a better user experience for everyone.
Comments/thoughts? Let me know!
Until next time...
Jack is off this week. Today's column ran earlier on ClickZ.
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Jack Aaronson, CEO of The Aaronson Group and corporate lecturer, is a sought-after expert on enhanced user experiences, customer conversion, retention, and loyalty. If only a small percentage of people who arrive at your home page transact with your company (and even fewer return to transact again), Jack and his company can help. He also publishes a newsletter about multichannel marketing, personalization, user experience, and other related issues. He has keynoted most major marketing conferences around the world and regularly speaks at Shop.org and other major industry shows. You can learn more about Jack through his LinkedIn profile.
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