TELUS, in 2018, is planning to retrofit major retail locations as their new Accessibility Centres of Excellence (ACEs). The primary focus of this is visible disabilities, such as deafness or mobility challenges. The company’s preliminary research synthesis, which guided this project on “invisible disabilities”, can be found here.
As a capstone project in my final year of university, I was tasked with designing a unique customer experience for differently-abled shoppers. I decided to target this design towards those suffering from autism-spectrum disorders (ASD), as well as the co-morbitities often present (e.g., cognitive challenges, behavioural challenges, etc).
Early into this project, the theme of “rising above” emerged. Shoppers with autism-spectrum disorders often face intense challenges while shopping, from a lack of employee support to sensory overload from store displays. Empathetic service design enables both employees and customers to rise above these challenges and work together to satisfy every customers’ digital needs.
Commission-based salespeople in traditional cell phone sales roles are rewarded for expediency, and this is often at the expense of lost sales and missed opportunities when working with differently-abled populations. A retrained and specialized workforce can help ensure everyone is treated with respect, empathy, and compassion in TELUS retail locations.
Primary and secondary research conducted on ASD-affected populations guided the design of this solution. To expand on the benefits of a well-trained, accessibility-friendly workforce, an environmental solution which minimizes environmental triggers (e.g., loud noises, bright lights, certain textures) will allow shoppers to feel comfortable in the TELUS stores.
This is how the more empathetic and empowering sales experience would likely transpire. Customers can operate at their own pace, with guided access, and with or without the assistance of a salesperson during the selling process. The specialized tablet software and television displaying product information allows for self-exploration of TELUS’ product catalogue.
Designing for underserved consumer demographics in an oligopolistic market, such as Canadian telecommunications services, will allow TELUS to “expand the pie” (i.e., grow their total addressable market). And with prevalence rates for autism spectrum disorders rising, now is the time to develop truly accommodative retailing practices.
The Canadian telecommunications marketplace is becoming saturated, meaning that the majority of addressable consumers now have some form of wireless telephone. By expanding the addressable population for these services, and retailing with empathy and well-designed spaces, TELUS will build brand loyalty amongst this consumer demographic.
TELUS has an opportunity to grow its total addressable market size beyond that of its oligopolistic competitors. This can be achieved through empathetic retailing; namely, workforce training and environmental modifications are of particular value. Through effective marketing and selling tactics, TELUS can empower ASD-affected consumers and retain these customers for life.