Small Improvements Make all the Difference

Our business is open to the public, and last year we received some complaints from a potential customer.  The customer was unhappy as they were unable to gain access to our shop due to the steps leading up to the doorway.  They had shouted out for assistance but as our sales assistants were at the counter, away from the entrance, they were unable to attract their attention and so the customer had no choice but to leave.

I was made aware of the problem as our unhappy potential customer was kind enough to write to me and let me know what happened. After reading the letter I was left wondering how many other people had not been able to come into the shop even though they wanted to. I realised that inadvertently we were unable to accommodate everyone and this meant we were not able to offer our products to all those who wanted them. This is a serious issue especially if you rely on your customers to make a living, and let’s face it we all do.

Making Steps in the Right Direction

I decided to make some changes and make sure people of all ages and abilities could come through our doors.  The first step was approaching experts to ask for their advice.  I knew I needed to alter the entrance but I wanted to make sure it was appropriate and suitable for everyone to use, whether they had a walking frame, wheelchair or walking stick. After speaking with experts I then approached a disability group who held meetings nearby and asked for their opinions and thoughts.  The reason for this was simply to help to raise disability awareness within my staff, and it was very effective.

Training up the Employees

We decided what improvements to the property we needed to make. The changes included incorporating a ramp with a rail and removing the old door and replacing with one that would open and close automatically. A seat was placed at the counter to provide somewhere to sit if the queue is too long or if anyone has many bags. We have found the chair to be very useful especially for people that have problems lifting objects such as shopping bags off the floor. We installed a bell on the counter and in our changing rooms and had some signs made up for our partially sighted and blind customers.

I also provided my employees with some training to ensure they were prepared to provide an excellent service to everyone.  The training was not only to raise awareness about our customers it was also so they could use some of the new equipment I had installed such as the induction loops at the checkout.

Positive Changes Welcomed by the Community

After we finished making the changes I contacted the customer who was unable to come to our shop.  I wanted to thank them in person for making me aware of the problem and show them the improvements that had been made. A reporter came and our story was featured in the local paper which was great publicity and allowed everyone to become aware of all our new accessibility.  I am happy to report that the unhappy person is now a loyal customer, one of many new customers who are able to come and make use of our shop as and when they please.

It makes perfect business sense to ensure that your premises can be accessed by the widest audience possible. By not providing easy access you could be turning away thousands of customers each year and not even be aware of it. Many of our new customers return again and again now they know  that we are able to easily accommodate and serve them.  It’s not only important to think of people who are in wheelchairs or that have difficulty walking, there are all sorts of disabilities to consider. It’s certainly a worthwhile place to start if you are hoping to increase your reach within your community.

Before making any changes you must ensure you are complying with the Equality Act. Use access audits services and get the job done right.

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