Um, You Forgot Someone Over Here: Why Customer Experience And Advocacy Go Hand In Hand

dirt road cover by dried leaves

Fall is in full swing. Halloween is a little less than two weeks away. My kids have their Halloween costumes picked out. And, I’ve had more Pumpkin Spice Lattes than I can count! But, what does this have to do with customer experience?

Well, to answer that question, I need to tell a little story. You see, my older son had a stroke before, during or shortly after birth. This stroke affected many things, but the area that it affected most is his ability to effectively move his mouth and tongue to form words and to safely consume many foods. In fact, we modify his diet at every meal so his foods are either soft, or cut to pea size, in case the food doesn’t get to his teeth and he swallows the pieces whole. At school, he has the teacher or one of the paraprofessionals sit with him while he eats his snack to ensure he doesn’t choke. (Yes. He has choked. And yes I’ve had to perform the Heimlich, which has been the most scary thing I’ve encountered as a parent so far.)

So, with the coming of Halloween, comes classroom parties. Parties with food. And I took one look at the treat sign-up sheet for his classroom party and saw that there was only one treat on the list he would actually be able to eat. Everything else was raw veggies, pretzels, etc.

And while I could have just sent some treats that he could eat and that he could share with all of his other classmates, I chose to open up the conversation on disability and equity in the classroom and bring awareness to those that simply do not have disability as part of their daily consideration.

To open the dialogue, I reached out to the parent coordinating the treats. I explained that my son had some limitations on what he could eat due to his stroke and asked if he could bring some soft treats that he can eat (mandarin orange fruit cups and string cheese) decorated for the occasion for all of his friends. The parent said absolutely and that she would ensure there was a note made for future parties so a greater mix of types of treats could be on the list for next time.

Now, I know that was kind of a long story, but it definitely ties back to a broader conversation around customer experience and advocacy. And here’s how. When we create customer experiences, its easy to create through the lens of our personal experiences, also referred to as our personal biases. It’s harder to create through the lens of someone else’s disability without sitting down and having a conversation with that person. To truly create experiences that benefit the greatest number of our customers, we have to design with disability first.

To design with disability first, we have to connect with our coworkers, customers and individuals in our communities that can provide that perspective that we don’t have ourselves. This provides us with a richer set of contexts and perspectives to design better quality experiences that serve not only a broader set of our customer base, but experiences that will serve our customers from the day they first purchase something from us to many years down the road.

And this is where the advocacy piece comes in. To truly build experiences that serve our customers and support their changing needs and abilities over the years, we have to advocate in our organizations for the inclusion of voices from our disabled communities at every phase of the design and development of our websites, mobile apps, marketing, branding, etc. In doing so, we deliver on the promise that our organizations truly put the customer first. And, at the end of the day, the companies that deliver on that promise are the ones that will be around for many years to come.

So, what do you think? I’d love to get your perspective in the comments below.

Published by Shelby Bono-Mitchell

My passion for exceptional customer experiences started early in working for major brands in the advertising industry and on the corporate side. I've had the opportunity to work with brands in the tech, retail, automotive and financial services industries to develop brand & communications strategies, optimize digital experiences, introduce UX analytics platforms to gain customer insights and shape customer messages. It is through a single customer experience that we have the power to captivate or sever our customer relationships, and my goal is to captivate.

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