Customer experience - and the ever increasing importance of Accessibility

If the unexpected events of 2020 have put any one area of marketing firmly under the spotlight – then it would have to be the importance of how and where customers can access our products and services.

Historically when scrutinising the customer experience, there may well have been a touch of complacency when considering accessibility – the sectors that companies operated within almost dictated where and how customers should access their offer.

However, following such an unpredictable year, many companies have needed to adjust almost all  aspects of their business within a very short space of time, to find new and innovative ways that ensure their products and services remain accessible to their customers.

It goes without saying how important technology has been throughout this transition, with many sectors, such as training and education, successfully converting their offer to online. Companies across the hospitality, leisure and entertainment sectors have also found, and continue to find, dynamic ways to continue to make their (face to face) service accessible within the social constraints that we must now all operate within.

So where does accessibility fit in to the overall marketing mix? Well, it isn’t directly represented by any of the 7 P’s – but for me it sits comfortably between the Place and Process elements of the mix. The 2 of which combine to ensure that customers can obtain our offering in the most convenient location (be it home, online or face to face), and most importantly in the simplest way.

And like all aspects of the marketing mix, the only way to ensure that we continue to meet the ever-changing needs and wants of our customers - is to keep our customers, and every factor that impacts and influences them, at the centre of our considerations.

A great example of a company that continues to get this right is The Big Issue. Perhaps not the first organisation that springs to mind when you think of innovation – but they continue to prove how adaptable and inventive they are when it comes to offering their product in the most accessible way.

Way back in 2019 (it already feels like a decade ago), The Big Issue launched a pilot scheme to equip their vendors with cardless payment readers. This of course was intended to counter the sharp decline in the amount of cash being carried by the general public – and would enable customers, who no longer carry cash, to continue to purchase their product from regional vendors.

And again, earlier this year as vendors could no longer attend their physical pitches out in their local community – The Big Issue immediately responded by adjusting their offer to an online subscription format where customers could opt to purchase either an e-magazine, or order paper copies via postal delivery. For the first in its 29-year history, The Big Issue magazine was also made available to buy from a number of big-name stores including Sainsbury’s, Asda and WHSmith.

This represented a bold step for the weekly magazine, but crucially, ensured that they could continue to be accessible to their loyal customer base. In turn, this meant that income generated through online and retail sales could also be distributed among its’ vendors, across the country, throughout the lockdown period.

So although no one really knows what the next few months has in store for us all – as marketers (or marketeers if you prefer) we can say for certain just how important it is, now more than ever, to keep our customers, and every factor that impacts upon them, at the centre of all that we do.

Written by Matt Smith