The latest incident at a Queensland ALDI store regarding interactions between a cashier and the mother of a boy with cerebral palsy highlights the inadequacies in training and awareness about Disability that face many businesses. I don’t blame the cashier, but the lack of response by the organisation emphasises the absence of understanding about the buying power and exponential networks of people with a disability.
An ALDI cashier’s comment to a parent that her son with cerebral palsy would be “better of dead” may have been lost in translation, but despite the interpretation, Aldi’s failure to respond in a timely manner meant the interaction went viral on social media.
The negative impact this can have on the brand is huge. 1 in 4 Australians will have experience of Disability over their lifetime and People with a Disability represent a vast customer market that can generate additional business and profit. Through the NDIS (a new platform of funding) people with a disability now more than ever will have better access to their community and will expect better service from business.
Businesses that fail to have the skills to engage with this emerging market of consumers do so at their own risk. Not only does this consumer group represent 25% of Australians, they have an extensive network who are well connected. Any poor customer experience is shared far and wide.
ALDI were naïve in underestimating the buying power of this group of customers; they have twice the spending power of Australian teenagers and almost 18 times the spending power of the Australian "tweens".
If ALDI want to take market share from Coles and Woolworths they should develop their ability to proactively reach out and market to people with disabilities by creating universally accessible customer-friendly environments and understand how to engage with diversity.
This would give them an advantage above their competitors and the ability to rebuild their brand amongst a community who has a sour taste in their mouth after experiencing, and hearing about this recent episode.