In the third review of the AODA, the Honourable David Onley recommends needed improvements to the Act. During the public meetings Onley held while preparing his review, attendees outlined many barriers that people with disabilities face. More improvements to the AODA would help to remove existing barriers and prevent future ones. Therefore, in addition to direct recommendations, Onley’s review also includes suggestions from attendees about how to remove these barriers. This article will explore improving customer service feedback processes.
Improving Customer Service Feedback Processes
Under the Customer Service Standards of the AODA, service providers must create processes for accessible customer service feedback. These processes must outline how providers will receive and respond to feedback from customers with disabilities about how accessibly they provide goods and services. Moreover, these processes ensure that customers with disabilities can communicate with organizations about how well they are meeting customers’ needs.
Providers might receive feedback about many aspects of their services. For instance:
- Accessible elements of a space or building, such as:
- Availability of technology or equipment, such as:
- Staff accessibility knowledge, such as:
- Welcome for service animals or support persons
- How prepared staff are for temporary service disruptions
- Staff willingness to assist customers with invisible disabilities
Since customers with disabilities may communicate in different ways, providers must allow customers to offer feedback in a variety of formats. For instance, some of the ways customers might give feedback are:
- In person
- By phone
- In writing
Responding to Complaints
Moreover, providers’ processes must detail how they will respond to any complaints they receive. However, the Customer Service Standards do not give any guidance about how or when providers need to respond. Nonetheless, if customers offer negative feedback, providers must address the customers’ concerns. Furthermore, providers must respond using communication methods that take customers’ disabilities into account.
Finally, providers must alert the public about their accessible customer service feedback processes. They should inform customers about their processes in multiple ways, such as on signs, on their websites, on phone messages, and in person.
Attendees at Onley’s review meetings state that many companies have developed policies for receiving and responding to feedback in accessible ways. However, companies must do more to alert members of the public about how to contact them. For instance, companies could make information about their feedback processes more prominent on websites and automated phone-answering systems.
Alternatively, some attendees suggest that customers with disabilities should request accommodations more often. For example, customers could ask service providers whether they have:
- Accessible entrances, washrooms, or change rooms
- Menus or event programs in accessible formats
- ASL interpretation or captions for live events
If a service provider has the item or service the customer asks for, workers will gain more practical experience providing it. In contrast, if the item or service is not available, the provider learns that having it could attract more customers.
In addition, more requests from customers with disabilities may help providers recognize the variety of services and supports people with disabilities use. For instance, one customer who is deaf may sign while another speechreads. Similarly, one customer with a physical disability may need an elevator while another prefers stairs. As a result, review attendees suggest that service providers should request feedback from people of all abilities, ages, and backgrounds. Furthermore, attendees suggest that service providers could receive feedback proactively by employing someone with a disability to audit and advise them about their accessibility. Employing someone with accessibility expertise would help businesses serve a more diverse customer base.
Attendees state that service providers should find ways to make the public aware of the feedback they have received. For instance, organizations should alert the public to the complaints they receive, and how they have resolved those complaints. Likewise, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) should analyse complaints. If customers are making similar complaints about many organizations, the HRTO may conclude that an AODA standard needs improvement. Similarly, attendees suggest that the government should publish information based on data from organizations’ accessibility reports. When organizations publicize their efforts to improve accessibility, they will gain customers eager to patronize accessible businesses.