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Disability support isn’t negotiable: we need more cross-sector collaboration

Nationwide is one of the launch partners of Experian’s latest technology Support Hub, which helps people to easily communicate their support needs to a range of essential services firms.

By Kathryn Townsend, Head of Customer Vulnerability, Nationwide Building Society and the Government’s Disability & Access Ambassador for the banking sector.

It’s an old expression: if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. 

Nowhere is that truer than when it comes to supporting the needs of disabled customers. For financial services firms, mutual or not, it’s crucial that we learn from the best practice shown across our industry to provide the most accessible and inclusive service possible. Appropriate industry collaboration can drive us all forward, faster, and provide a more consistent customer experience in the process. 

Done right, technology can open up a world of possibilities for disabled people, but the best customer service strategies use a blend of high tech, low tech – and no tech solutions. This means making sure apps and websites work well with assistive technology, and communications are available in accessible formats. Customer service adjustments, like speaking more slowly or facing someone who needs to lipread, make a significant difference. People need different things based on their needs, but also at different points in their life, or for different banking tasks. This puts a large burden on disabled consumers to continually keep on top of the support needs offered by every firm they regularly interact with.

In a world where disabled people face routine barriers in many aspects of daily life, this is energy that could be better spent elsewhere. Recent research by Experian has found that nearly three quarters (73%) of disabled people put off contacting an essential services provider, like a bank or building society, because they felt intimidated by the scale of the process. Meanwhile, Statista has found that in July 2023 over 2.6 million people were economically inactive from long-term sickness in the UK, a 20-year high. The implication is clear: as a sector we have to get this right for an increasing proportion of our customer base. 

Nationwide is one of the launch partners of Experian’s latest technology Support Hub, which helps people to easily communicate their support needs to a range of essential services firms. Crucially, the solution was developed and iterated not only with the input of disabled people but all the founding firms, bringing with them the voices of their millions of customers and years of collective experience. This helped to drive consistency and set a higher bar of what could be achieved. 

This innovative solution aims to be a ‘one-stop shop’ for consumers to communicate what they need to businesses they are a customer of, without needing to tell every firm individually. This might include setting a preferred method of communication, or ensuring a friend or guardian can attend appointments alongside them. For Nationwide, the benefit is clear – we can fuse the traditional face-to-face service that sits at the heart of our brand with technology that makes disabled people’s lives easier. 

Nationwide recently became the first building society to receive the Mental Health Accessible Level One accreditation from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, and we hope that other firms in the sector follow us in embedding mental health considerations into all aspects of the business, whether it’s customer comms, staff training, product and services.

Accessible design is good design – by making no assumptions about the physical or mental health of the end user, businesses can make interacting with their products and services as intuitive as possible. In a business that’s all about service, inclusive design for disabled people means a better experience for everyone.

Let’s work together – and go far.

Visit: https://www.moneyandmentalhealth.org/press-release/nationwide-building-society-mental-health-accessible-accreditation/   
https://www.experian.co.uk/business-products/support-hub 

This article was first published in Society Matters magazine
 

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