How Tesco are Improving Accessibility
Another major way in which these websites are changing the relationship between themselves and their customers is by facilitating and encouraging customer interactivity through electronic feedback, comments, reporting and e-commerce. The Environment Agency (2001) has found that "one of the most effective ways" of improving the "quality of the services" that it provides, is by listening to feedback, then reviewing their existing procedures. They state in their Customer Charter how they "encourage access and promote choice for all members of society to contribute their skills knowledge and resources" and for the public to contact them by e-mail with views on all their strategies and to let them know when they have done a good job and inform them of when they have performed badly.
A study of public relations professionals conducted by The Institute for Public Relations and The Worldcom Public Relations Group revealed, "communication technology is improving relationships in the practice of public relations and that e-mail is about equal in credibility as face-to-face communication" (Internet PRGuide, 2001). The Environment Agency operates a complaints procedure and also relies on public reports of environmental damage such as pollution spills or illegal dumping of waste, which may lead to prosecution. The Environment Agency is extremely keen to build a good working-relationship with its customers in order to perform effectively as part of the government by providing information in electronic format inline with the Disability Discrimination Act.
Tesco sought to improve access to all online by working jointly with the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) to create the site, Tesco Access, following feedback from blind and partially sighted Internet shoppers. "A Gartner Group study found that 90 per cent of first-generation websites were created without asking existing customers what they wanted" (Schwartz, 1997). Quite clearly there was a need for such a site to be developed. Nielsen (2000, p 298) points out that, "in addition to regulatory compliance and common human decency, there are hard-nosed business reasons to make web designs accessible for users with disabilities." He states that disabled users often "become very loyal customers once they find vendors who give them good service and accommodate their special needs".
Tesco Access "provides people with sight problems with the opportunity to shop independently". It was awarded the first RNIB See It Right Accessible Website Award, an award that "provides a mark of approval to websites that can be used successfully by people with sight problems". The launch of the site was hailed as "the start of a relationship between Tesco and RNIB who hope to work together further to develop links which are likely to enhance and ease the shopping experience of people with sight problems" (Tesco, 2001).