Use appropriate means to communicate with customers


For communication to be successful, it has to be provided through an appropriate channel, in an appropriate format and with appropriate content. This applies to all types of communication between the organisation and the customer, including advertising or promotional material, information on a website, any form of communication that is used for ordering, setting up an account, billing, customer support and complaints procedures.

Meeting the needs of all customers involves giving choice. Information provided through a range of channels (e.g. Post, telephone, text message, email and online) and in a range of formats (e.g. Electronic, print, large print, easy to read, braille) is more likely to cater for the needs and preferences of all customers.

My bill is accessible! it’s either available in
braille or

guidelines survey respondent.

A person with hearing loss may not be able to hear spoken or audible information.

I indicated that i was deaf, and to text me. They
called my phone several times trying to confirm the

guidelines survey respondent.

Written or printed information may not be accessible to a customer with vision impairments.

They refuse to provide information in braille but are
happy to send the bills in

guidelines survey respondent.

Information which is overly technical or not stated in clear language may not be understandable by a customer with limited experience of using technology, low literacy or an intellectual disability.

There’s so much information and detail on the
Tv bill it's hard to work out how much it actually costs.

If it was more plain english.
just ordinary words. You don’t have to have all the big

When you have to ring up they
ask you a number and it gets confusing. You have to remember a big long number.
you’re waiting a long time. If you hang up you’re back to square one

guidelines survey respondents.

Organisations can ensure that information in digital format, for example on a website or in an email, can be used and understood by all customers by following the recognised accessibility and usability guidelines. Given a well-designed, accessible website, individual customers can easily transform it to meet their needs by resizing the text, changing the colours, having it read out as speech or converting it to braille. This is much more difficult with printed information. However many organisations with large customer bases now offer to provide general and customers specific information such as bills in a range of formats.

Directions and techniques

Make information easy to understand (high priority)

Wherever possible, written information should be communicated using clear, concise, non-technical language, according to plain english guidelines. This approach uses short sentences and avoids jargon and complicated words or phrases.

Customer service representatives should be able to describe technical terms in a non-technical way.

Provide a choice of communications channels and information formats (high priority)

Information should be provided through a range of channels (e.g. Post, telephone, text message, email and online) in order to cater for the needs and preferences of all customers.

This also applies to communications from the customer to the organisation, through forms or ordering facilities. For example, if a customer is unable to complete a printed form, they can be given the option to provide their details over the telephone.

If providing a range of alternative formats of all communication material is not feasible or will take time to organise, start by identifying the key communications (e.g. Order forms, bills) and provide those in as many formats as is deemed necessary.

Make digital and online information usable and accessible (high priority)

Web-based information and interactive services should be made accessible and usable to all customers. By carefully following the guidelines the Web content accessibility guidelines (wcag) from the web accessibility initiative (wai),it is possible to make the contents of a website maximally accessible to almost all users, without compromising its design and functionality. The result will be a flexible format that individual customers can transform to meet their needs by resizing it, changing the colours, accessing it on different devices, having it read out as speech or converting it to braille.

No equivalent set of international guidelines exist for usability. However there are many resources on usability on the web including jacob nielson usability heuristics.

Information and communications provided through other digital channels, such as telephone and information kiosks, should be made universally accessible by following theIrish national it accessibility guidelines which includes specific guidance on telecoms and public access terminals.

Electronic forms of communication, such as the organisation’s website (including all online ordering facilities) should be tested for accessibility and usability. This testing can take the form of an audit or user testing with a wide range of users. An audit can be conducted on all key sections of the website to ensure that they adhere to the relevant web accessibility guidelines and usability heuristics. The ceud provides guidelines on web accessibility auditing.

Adopt a widely accessible standard format for printed information

Provide printed information in a range of formats, such as standard print, large print, easy to read and braille according to the needs and requests of your customers. Information on accessible formats can be found in the NDA publication first steps in producing accessible publications.

The need to supply alternative formats can be minimized by choosing a standard format that is accessible without modification to the largest number of people, within the constraints of branding, marketing considerations and production costs.

Aim for clarity at all time when choosing a typeface or designing a layout. If in doubt, keep it simple.

An appropriate standard format may, for example:

  • Use a font size that is easily read by the widest range
    of users possible. depending on the typeface used, 12 point could be considered
    as the minimum type size for standard format. 14 point is commonly used, so more
    people can access the standard format. print above 16 point is considered to be
    large print. be printed on matte finish paper, not glossy;
  • Use a good contrast with a plain background for
  • Be written in easy to read language, using a mixture of
    text and graphics.

For more detailed guidance, see the plain english and make it clear guidelines.

Record information about customers’ preferred formats for communications

Providing a way for customers to state their preferred methods and formats for communication can alleviate the need for repeated requests for alternative formats and help to inform future universal design planning. This can be done during a sign up period or through a mechanism where customers can set their own preferences or provide feedback on how well communications meet their needs.

How you could test for this

digital and online information can be tested for accessibility and usability by either auditing or user testing. An accessibility audit can be conducted on all key sections of a website to ensure that they adhere to the relevant web accessibility guidelines. The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design provides guidelines on web accessibility auditing which describe how to commission and what outputs to expect.