Train staff in universal customer service


Developing staff competencies in universal customer service is vital to ensure that they have the knowledge, attitudes and skills to fully address all customers’ needs and give a consistently high quality of customer service. This training gives staff the opportunity to explore how their attitudes and organisational processes could be a barrier to certain customers and to good customer service in general. It can also allow staff to explore their roles and the roles of all stakeholders in creating a more accessible and usable environment for all.

It is not just the attitude, friendliness and communications skills of the general customer service representative that are important. Customers will need answers to specific questions about the universal design features of products. Sales and customer support staff will need to be kept up to date with this knowledge.

Some customers may have very specific requirements and questions, so the option to talk to a customer service representative who is willing and able to address their specific requests can make a considerable difference. The following quotes made by customers in the survey of Irish television users carried out for these guidelines (in this case both persons with a vision impairment) illustrates two different approaches, one far more successful than the other.

Customer service are not equipped to deal with issues
that fall outside of mainstream. They pass it on to managers who do not

I found customer support quite
helpful. I talked to the accessibility department who went through the process
step by step to ensure that the issue was

Guidelines survey respondents.

Directions and techniques

Ensure that all customer-facing staff have awareness of the diverse range of customer needs and requirements (high priority)

The training that all customer-facing staff and their managers receive should incorporate a significant portion of awareness raising and skills training regarding the diverse range of customers’ needs and requirements. In some cases it may be necessary to provide training to existing staff about the needs of specific customer segments such as older people and people with disabilities.

All procured services (e.g. Outsourcing of administrative or HR responsibilities) and contracted staff should be aware of universal design policies and procedures and their staff should receive relevant training.

The National Disability Authority has developed Guidelines for Purchasers of Disability Equality Training to assist organisations with the development of their disability equality training programme. The Guidelines set out for purchasers what to look for in a trainer, how the trainer might work with the organisation and the broad content of disability equality training programmes.

Assign responsibilities to staff members and advertise these within the organisation (high priority)

Responsibilities relating to specific and specialist customer service roles, such as providing advice on content access services) should be identified and assigned to relevant members of staff.

In larger organisations, more than one member of staff may be required. It can be helpful to develop an internal working/cross functional team of staff responsible for universal design matters.

All staff who deal with customers should be made aware of these roles and should know who they should refer to when receiving specialised requests from customers.

Outsourced services and contracted staff should also be made aware of universal design policies, procedures and responsible staff members.

Ensure that customer-facing staff are aware of universal design features of products

Customer support staff should be kept up to date with knowledge about the full range of design features that enable all customers to use the service and limitations of products and any special adaptations or services that are available for people with particular requirements.

How you could test for this

The effectiveness of staff training in universal customer service can be assessed by running a mystery shopping exercise. This involves representative customers with a wide range of abilities, disabilities, size and age interacting with customer facing staff and reporting their experiences.

It would seek to judge all relevant aspects of the service quality, such as:

  • The ability of staff to communicate effectively with
    customers with limited experience or ability in using technology, from different
    age demographics or who have impairments that affect communication;
  • Staff knowledge of the universal design features of
    products and services;
  • The accessibility and usability of information provided
    to customers;
  • The ability of staff to deal efficiently and courteously
    with all customers regardless of their age, ability, disability or