March 4, 2017

When Customer Communications and Document Accessibility Goes Wrong

By: Dennis Quon, EDP, Business Development Manager, Document Accessibility Services How many times have you walked to the mailbox, retrieved your mail and read through the contents? It is a regular occurrence in my life as I am sure it is for many of you. Interacting with the communications that come through the postbox is … Continue reading “When Customer Communications and Document Accessibility Goes Wrong”

By: Dennis Quon, EDP, Business Development Manager, Document Accessibility Services

How many times have you walked to the mailbox, retrieved your mail and read through the contents? It is a regular occurrence in my life as I am sure it is for many of you. Interacting with the communications that come through the postbox is as common as the morning sunrise. Unfortunately, it is not this simple for everyone.

Imagine, if you will, if performing the simple task of going to the mailbox and reading the mail within was difficult or impossible. For people with low vision, complete vision loss or other disabilities, such as dyslexia, accessible documents are a necessity for them to be able to read and understand the information and to communicate with their service providers. Moreover, as a provider of customer communications (sometimes referred to as transaction documents) you want your customers to continue to promote your brand.

To illustrate this, join us as we tune into Rachael’s journey to interact with her investment service provider. Rachael graduated with an honors business degree in management. She built a successful career managing teams of people in large non-profit organizations. Rachael is also completely blind. For Rachael, losing her sight was not part of the plan, but even with this added challenge she learned to excel. Due to the timing of her vision loss, she wasn’t part of a generation that learned braille, but there is a common misconception that as a person with no sight she must know how to read braille.

Rachel’s struggle with her investment service provider illustrates her dilemma perfectly. She was trying to get a copy of her quarterly investment statement in an accessible document format that she could use. When she called the customer service number, they treated her with the utmost respect and told her that they would deliver to her an accessible version of her quarterly statement within 7 to10 days.

To Rachael’s surprise, about 7 days later she heard the mail come through her mail slot. As it hit the floor, she thought it sounded like one of the pieces was pretty heavy for a piece of mail. Making her way to the mail slot, she picked up the mailpiece and discovered a large flat envelope. Not being able to read who it was from, she took the mail back to the kitchen and opened the large flat envelope. Inside Rachael discovered paper with a patterned texture. Then it hit her, this must be her accessible statement from her investment firm.

To confirm, she called her next-door neighbor, who had become a close friend over the last decade, to see if she would help her read who these braille documents were from. When Mary arrived, she confirmed that the braille documents were from Rachael’s investment firm. Rachael thanked Mary for the help and for letting her know what else came in the mail that day.

The next day, Rachael called her investment provider again. She tried to explain that the braille statement was appreciated, but wasn’t helpful for her. Talking to the customer service representative, she inquired if they had audio versions of the quarterly statements or perhaps an electronic format such as Accessible PDF. Unfortunately, the agent was not able to confirm that any of those accessible formats would be options for delivery of her quarterly statement. For now she was just going to have to be content to have her neighbor reading the statements to her or trying to get her screen reader to follow the electronic statement—though it was very difficult to understand.

Interestingly, the braille statements are still being delivered to Rachel.

The above is based on a true story. The names have been changed to protect the innocent, but the situation is real. Imagine being Rachael and how you would feel if you couldn’t receive your important customer communications in a format you could understand and interact with.

The Answer? As producers of critical customer communications you should adopt an accessible document strategy as part of your CCM strategy. With the proper tools and services, like those from Crawford Technologies, you can provide your customers with audio and E-Text versions of your customer documents. For electronic delivery, you can solve issues with PDF and other electronic formats not being read with assistive technology by providing your end-customers with Accessible PDF or Accessible PDF/UA.

Implementing an accessible solution is easier than you might think. We invite you to visit our Document Accessibility for Customer Communications information page. When you visit, you will find a wealth of information about accessible document creation and links to our on-demand educational webinars, which includes our two part series on Implementing Accessible Documents in Your Organization.

In addition,be sure to download our recently announced Document Accessibility White Paper: Ensure your Customer Communications are Accessible and Understandable: Understanding Accessible PDF.