The mind-boggling growth of data, analytic capabilities, and applications in today’s business environments has provided an unprecedented opportunity for companies to collect and analyze data from customer interactions and to provide the customization and personalization required to serve a “market of one.”
While organizations are seizing this opportunity to provide customers with an enhanced user experience, many are missing the mark by failing to consider customers of all abilities. In the US, approximately 57 million people ― 20% of the population ― have a disability that includes cognitive, vision, hearing, or fine-motor-control challenges. These people are potentially your existing customers or prospects who need to communicate with your organization and interact with your digital assets.
Without a digitally accessible business, you will lose out on customer opportunities. You also risk fines, legal fees, and brand damage due to noncompliance with accessibility laws, such as Section 508 of the US Rehabilitation Act, which requires that technology used by federal agencies be accessible, and the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, which mandates that accessibility laws enacted in the 1980s and 1990s adapt to new digital, broadband, and mobile capabilities. Meeting the needs of all abilities has become a must-have instead of a nice-to-have.
Improving Accessibility with Analytics
Accessibility can manifest in different ways. Consider banking, where MPhasis does a lot of work. By complying with ADA Accessibility Guidelines, ATM machines are usable by individuals with a physical disability. Those accommodations might mean a Braille keypad and audio capabilities that deliver instructions to make ATM banking accessible to those who are visually impaired. It can also mean accessibility enhancements for websites, such as text readers and text resizers, to accommodate those with visual impairments who cannot travel to physical bank locations.
These are only a few examples of components of accessibility, and these types of technologies can only be enhanced through data analytics. Analytics enable businesses to learn from each customer interaction and deliver a personalized experience that truly serves each customer’s needs, regardless of physical ability. Analytics can offer behavior analysis, trends, and predictions on the usability of services, for example, or potential challenge points. It can also help you track your accessibility progress. When combined with a monthly cycle of review and remediation, and with an internal education program, the outcome can be a mature accessibility program.
So how do you capture this valuable user interaction data, so that you can ensure an intuitive, satisfying user experience for all, and not just some?
Capturing User Interaction Data with Automation
Assistive technology that helps customers interact with a company’s digital assets can provide valuable user interaction data that, when analyzed, offers insights into where accessibility can be improved. Robotic process automation (RPA), for example, is a technology that automates processes usually performed by people. With RPA, a software “robot” interacts with existing applications by automatically performing a set of tasks that is logged in the background — information that can then be analyzed to improve processes.
Automated assistants, such as online assistant or voice recognition software, are a typical example of an RPA implementation, where the software automatically processes communications, retrieves information, and provides answers in natural language using RPA. This type of implementation is often deployed at large call centers to improve efficiency, and can be used to enable a wide range of accessibility scenarios, such as enabling students and professionals with disabilities to write papers or participate in meetings. The logs for these RPA-enabled processes can then be evaluated for areas needing improvement.
Banking is another common use case for RPA, and for enabling digital accessibility. For example, most banks now allow consumers to apply for mortgages online. The whole process flow — from opening a new account, to filling out an application, to approval — can be streamlined and automated, and also analyzed, using RPA, which allows the evaluation of a wide range of accessibility points. When used in banking, for example, RPA allows you to capture data from interactions such as processing a transaction, manipulating data, triggering responses, and communicating with other digital systems, which you can then analyze to ensure you are meeting the needs of all of your customers.
Building a Market for All
Businesses that harness data and insights in real time are turning this information into a competitive advantage by using it to enable new revenue streams, improve products, and increase customer satisfaction — and those that are inclusive of individuals with disabilities will have the edge with an expanded customer base and increased customer retention by not losing aging customers.
With technology like RPA available right now, and the potential for growth, businesses are well incentivized to make digital accessibility a priority. Providing digital accessibility puts your business on the path to building a “market for all.”
Cristopher Broyles is Chief Accessibility Compliance Officer for Mphasis, a billion dollar-per-year IT Consulting Firm specializing in services and solutions for the financial sector (including banks, wealth management firms, and insurance) and in logistics. For Mphasis, Cristopher oversees the internal accessibility-compliance program, spanning 9 acquired companies and over 25,000 employees. Cristopher also oversees the external accessibility programs for various clients and partners across multiple project teams.
Cristopher’s expertise is in developing and implementing enterprise-wide accessibility programs that are sustainable, scalable, resource-smart, and data-transparent in large organizations (50,000+ employees), a model he was asked to push Federal wide by way of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Trusted-Tester program. Cristopher has led many organizations to develop, mature, and implement successful programs around accessibility and digital design, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Perkins School for the Blind, Harvard University, and Microsoft. Cristopher has provided expert counsel to the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Access Board, Senator Markey’s Office, the Whitehouse, and to other key law-enforcement entities on specific technical and strategic matters around accessibility (Section 508 and ADA compliance).
Having been in the disability-compliance space for over 10 years, a requested speaker at major conferences (e.g., the U.S. EPA’s TRA Conference, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 508 Conference, various U.S. Access Board/Department of Education Conferences, and Mphasis’s Global Accessibility Awareness Conference), and having written multiple accessibility-focused publications, Cristopher Broyles is a nationally recognized thought leader and implementer in accessibility.
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