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Guest blog

Inclusive communication: Skipton Building Society and creating accessible emails

Sam Lewis from Skipton Building Society

Sam Lewis

Skipton Building Society recently updated the look and feel of their customer operational emails. We speak to Sam Lewis and Richard Moody, from the Letter Development Team, about the importance of accessibility in the changes that were made.

Why did you decide to review the accessibility of your customer emails?

The design of our operational emails had not been updated in a few years, so we wanted to create something that stood out to our customers and was more consistent with our marketing emails.

One of the main focuses was how to make them easier to view on mobile devices. During the process and after speaking to members of our digital team, we decided to put a significant focus on improving the accessibility of the e-mails.  We began with focusing on making them accessible and built the design around this.

Could you talk us through the review process?

We started by looking at how our e-mails were built and how we can improve accessibility using HTML.

Richard Moody smiling

Richard Moody

Richard liaised with members of our digital and marketing teams and discussed the objectives. Our marketing team mentioned that this would be a good opportunity to update  the coding as well as the overall design to make our operational e-mails more accessible.

We discussed with senior leaders the benefits of improving the operational emails as part of Skipton’s drive to become more accessible. We then got approval to start building templates and mocking up designs.

Richard attended a course to increase his expertise within this field and then mocked up designs for our senior leadership team to approve.

We then discussed rolling out the changes and after some tweaks they were approved. We then began building the new design and testing it, before rolling out some live trials to see how customers responded to them. Following this successful trial, we amended the rest of our operational e-mails and put them live on 2nd January 2020.

Did you come up against any barriers or experience any difficulties?

The biggest challenge for our team was our technical knowledge, as the experts worked in different areas. To resolve this, we attended courses and liaised with specialists in different areas of the business. We gained knowledge about how we could improve our operational e-mails and what we needed to do from a technical perspective to make them more accessible.

From a wider business standpoint, although we had not received any complaints about the accessibility of our emails, we felt we could improve them for the benefit of the customer. We wanted to be proactive rather than reactive.

What changes have you made to your emails as a result of the review?

We have introduced a number of changes:

  • Increased text size
  • Increased line spacing
  • The use of “bullet-proof” buttons. We have seen a significant improvement in customer engagement using these buttons in comparison to just hyperlinked text
  • Using correct headers so read assistive technology can interpret which is the most important heading and emphasise it
  • New operational email header/footer design
  • Amended the ‘from address’ to read ‘Skipton Building Society’
  • Added new wording around alternative formats
  • Added a new ‘What’s next’ section
  • Included links to all relevant content on our website
  • Reviewed the wording and made sure the emails were clear and straightforward

How has the new style of email been received by customers?

The new design has been well received. Customer engagement increased by over 100 per cent between the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020. The accessibility user testing that we did on our marketing emails found that the use of buttons rather than links is easier for customers to find the information they need to take action. As mentioned above this has been implemented, aligning the emails. Customers found the text in our old operational emails to be too small and text heavy. The increased text size and spacing we have also implemented has helped resolve these issues.

What advice would you give to other organisations looking to review their emails?

We would say that it is worth being proactive and not just continuing to do things in a certain way, because that’s how they have always been done.

Also, investing time in developing people and listening to colleagues. If a colleague comes up with a good idea then it is worth checking it out.

There is always room to improve. By making your emails more accessible you are not only making improvements for customers with visual impairments, for example, you are improving them for every customer. You might not receive feedback but from our experience and results, we can see a measurable improvement in engagement and new business as a result of these changes.

Do you have plans to work on any other areas in the future?

This is an ever-evolving area, so we plan to keep modernising and taking a proactive approach as new features potentially appear. We need to take on new opportunities in order to continually improve our accessibility and services to our customers.

We have further amends that we are still working on, including having more bullet-proof buttons for customers to link to our website so interacting with us is easier. We have also recently added new wording in the footer of our emails that lets customers know our product information is available in alternative formats.

We will be implementing a companywide guide so that all colleagues have knowledge of these changes and understand that they have been introduced with accessibility as a focus. Also, so that the practice is incorporated into any new requests in the future.

You can see an example of one of Skipton Building Society’s new email templates in the ‘Case studies’ section of Business Disability Forum’s Inclusive Communications Toolkit

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