Identifying your Customer Special Needs

When it comes to identifying customer special needs, you have to step back a little, because this means two things, depending. Special needs can mean accommodations needed due to disabilities, or it can just mean specific accommodations to meet a target demographic or organizational culture. So, when faced with the task of mapping these needs, you’ll quickly discover there is a big fork right there in what kinds of needs.

Well, since both of these types of customer special needs are very important, and you kind of have to map them both around the same stage in any kind of cycle, well let’s look at them both.

First, let’s address those brought on by disabilities of some form. These can include mental handicaps, sensory issues (auditory or visual impairment), or mobility impairment of many forms.

When it comes to customer service, identifying these is more or less just a case of considering all of the forms of common impairment which your customers could have. So, common misfortunes like blindness or deafness should just be considered a potential outcome. Mobility problems are fairly easy to get around, as are mental disabilities, so it is going to be the former two you must contend with.

Of course, being as multi-channel as possible with your customer service is the solution for this. Those with impaired earing will find the web format, with text, comfortable, and the visually impaired will find the phone more practical. Just, do what you can to improve your call center. I don’t care who you are, your call center, as of this moment, still sucks!

Now, on to the broader term of identifying needs that are about target demographics. This is heavily influenced by what kind of product or service you provide, as it will attract certain types of people with certain personalities. It’s best, in order to identify what kinds of special concerns your demographic may have, to read case studies in sociology and psychology about the types of personalities likely to be encountered. Along with these, read further case studies on business with these demographics, as well as polls and inquiries about their concerns, opinions and wishes.

A further step, to keep an active finger on the pulse of your demographics, is to use some BI software that can watch social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. These are big communications trunks, and people tend to speak very candidly over these channels. It’s a good way to overhear “if only a company did this”, or “if they’d just done this, I’d not be upset over the problem”, and from this, find out the specific special situations in customer service that, for your demographics, are unacceptable, even if other businesses with different demographics can get away with it.

It’s too broad a reach to really talk about all the various kinds of customer special needs that you could potentially encounter, following this second definition. However, the approaches above are how successful companies do it. As for discussing them topically, perhaps in the future, we’ll talk about common special needs for various kinds of businesses, so we can explore this a little more. It is an interesting and valuable train of thought!


is Specialist in Customer Success and chief writer and editor of I Want It Now, a blog for Customer Service Experts. Follow her @StefWalkMe