Ideally, the journey people with disabilities take to become loyal customers would be a straight, short route: See the product. Check for Accessibility Features. Buy your product. Use your product. Tell Friends. Repeat.
The reality is that this journey is filled with tire kicking and sightseeing with stops, peer endorsements, checking pricing, and confirming that the product or service lives up to its reputation. In all these moments, people with disabilities and their friends need to be convinced to select your brand over one of your competitors.
There is very little data on the disability market, but that should not impede the ability of brands to map the customer with a disability’s journey. Understanding how customers interact with your brand will reveal how your products and services fit into their lives, schedules, goals, and aspirations.
Here are five steps your team can take to start journey mapping:
1. Find out how what you provide aligns with what your customer needs
During this step, it’s really important to identify your business goals. This approach requires discipline, cross-functional support, commitment from C-Suite executives and senior leaders, staff and a budget. This moves disability inclusion from compliance to journey mapping. Any marketing and communication you deliver during the customer journey should focus on helping your brand reach those goals while also providing a solution for the consumer.
However, it’s important to acknowledge that your customers’ goals might be different from yours. For example, you’re a health insurance provider and your priority is to provide members with disabilities accessible transportation for medical appointments. While transportation is provided, a 30-minute trip can take up to 3 hours due to frequent stops and picking up other passengers. That’s too long for a person with chronic pain to be seated and their top priority is getting to the appointment as quickly as possible. Consider how your marketing and communication strategies can help your customers reach their goals while also getting you closer to yours.
2. Identify all of the communication touchpoints in your customer’s journey
When do you traditionally communicate or engage with customers with disabilities? If your company does not make a list of these moments and group them based on when they can potentially happen during the journey: pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase. Now find communication touchpoints you may have missed. Track what actions and interactions between your brand and customers with disabilities, and track what happens just before and after each of the pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase stages.
For example, you might decide that a major moment in your purchase stage is when your brand has an exhibition booth at a conference or consumer expo. Not only do you want to provide communication before the event to create anticipation, but also when consumers with disabilities and their family come to the booth and interact with your team. Ensure that when they arrive you have information in alternate formats (i.e. large print), and that all activities within the booth are accessible.
Looking for all these touchpoints can quickly bog your team down in a lot of details and micro-interactions. To avoid that, prioritize these micro-moments that help you achieve your business goals.
3. Recognize pain points and moments of delight
How might your customers feel at the pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase stages as they attempt to achieve their goals? For example, could your customers be happy that your website is 508 compliant, but frustrated if they call customer service and they have a sub-par experience.
Find the moments where your customers with disabilities might have negative experiences. Who on your team is involved in those touchpoints? Your web designers? Your marketing team? Your customer service team? Which team members can you enlist to collaborate and improve the situation?
Say a customer with a disability likes how your online ad describes the accessible features of a product. But when they go to your store, salespeople are completely clueless about how the product would be used by someone with a specific disability. That’s an opportunity for your copywriters and customer-facing staff to better align their understanding, language and presentation.
4. Experience the customer journey with a person with a disability
Imagining how your customers with disabilities might feel during their journey is valuable, and experiencing it alongside them can uncover much-needed insights. Usability testing or mystery shopping are extremely effective ways to understand what customers with disabilities experience. You may opt to sit with a consumer as they experience your website, or tag along with them in a brick and mortar store. Afterwards, share what you observed after they share about the touchpoints and their experience. What worked well? Did customer service staff help you complete your journey? What was missing? Do this exercise with your competitors as well, and experience the journey they’ve created. Then ask all of the same questions.
5. Visualize your customer journey map
Beyond just writing down the customer journey and communications touchpoints of customers with disabilities and their family members, actually create a visual map of them. Simply write each of your touchpoints down on individual sticky notes or papers, then pin them in order to a wall.
By doing this exercise, you’re helping your team take a bird’s eye view of the entire customer journey for people with disabilities. Once you’ve organized your key learnings, share these observations with your Employee Resource Group (ERG) for people with disabilities, market research or a Disability Advisory Council. With their lived experience, and the input of your team, organize their thoughts and collaboratively brainstorm new ideas for changing or adding to your communication at each of these touchpoints.
Determine how the new communication touchpoints will improve the customer journey, then implement and test them. If you’re wrong, go back to your journey map, reassess and improve.
While journey mapping can be laborious, it is a worthwhile investment to impact your business. People with disabilities are often viewed through the lens of compliance, and journey mapping for this segment elevates understanding and creates communication touchpoints that can be integrated into your brand’s overall strategy.