By Oliver Broadhurst

Having just completed our latest set of Customer Experience Ratings, a lot has changed in six months. Terms and conditions are getting steadily more readable, more firms are providing better product information, and bad practice such as auto-opting customers into extra insurance cover is now almost non-existent.

But one serious issue remains. It’s one that affects a surprisingly large number of people in the UK, across a range of age groups.

We notice some issues that may lead to customer detriment - either through costing the customer more than they thought, or failing to provide what they expected. But this issue is so bad it completely denies people access to products altogether.

We often meet with experts both within and outside the industry to improve our knowledge and expertise. One particular meeting has stuck with me – our meeting with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB). They explained to us how common visual impairment is in the UK, and what vital steps need to be taken to improve the accessibility of financial services.

But in the year since we met with them, very little has changed.

What’s the issue?

The issue is an aspect of website design called ‘colour contrast’. I’ve written about how to ensure your website is accessible to all consumers, but this one issue stands out to me.

It stands out because it affects 2.7 million people in the UK, and is incredibly easy to fix.

Many firms have invested in flashy new websites to compete in an increasingly digital marketplace. But they’re competing on aesthetic value, rather than practical value. If you’ve got a new website that looks great to your eyes, then I suggest you use this tool to see it through the eyes of someone who’s colour blind.

Suddenly, what appeared to an engaging, aesthetic experience becomes completely unreadable. And if you think it’s just your website that has this problem, you’d be surprised how common it really is.

The scale of the problem

Part of our unique transparency analysis focuses on colour contrast. This is, as the name suggests, the contrast between colours used on your website – specifically between the colour of the text and the colour of the background behind it.

If this colour contrast value is below 4.5/1, then it becomes incredibly difficult, even impossible, for someone with colour blindness to read it. Having analysed the colour contrast of over 300 product pages, not a single product area is accessible to consumers across the board.

The worst product area for this is pet insurance, in which 21 out of 22 (95%) providers analysed have colour contrast errors. The best is not much better, with 17 out of 21 (81%) mortgage providers analysed having issues. Not only is this unacceptable, but as mortgages are the least common product to be bought online, what little improvement shown is of little use.

To look at banking as a whole, 81% of product pages are inaccessible to those with colour blindness. Insurance is even worse, with 89% being unreadable. Across financial services more broadly, these consumers are shut off from engaging with 85% of products online. And it’s worth remembering that if someone can’t access the product themselves, they are far more likely to look elsewhere than ask someone for help.

There are only two brands which are completely accessible for those with disabilities – Marks & Spencer and Capital One. Capital One were with us when we met with the RNIB, as they recognised the social importance of making their site accessible, and the competitive edge that comes with it.

Fit for the future

This issue is getting better. There are great schemes from other countries, aimed at tackling this problem. For example, the Australian and New Zealand Banking Group has introduced a new debit card packed with accessibility features, such as larger fonts and braille. Be sure your brand is getting to grips with this, before you fall behind the curve.

In a world filled with CX seminars, marketing schemes, and high profile advertising campaigns, this is one thing almost any firm can do that’s a fraction of the cost, opens up their customer base far more, and is ultimately the right thing to do.

Improving the colour contrast on your website is perhaps the single most needed, easiest, and cheapest way to improve your business’s customer proposition. So if you’re investing money in your site to compete in a digital age filled with new challenges, make sure you use some of this to fix an old one.