Customer Service Through A Different Lens
I have been fortunate during my years in customer service to speak with several blind customers and work to assist them in using our service. Generally those interactions were pleasant but challenging as I sought to tailor my approach to someone who might not necessarily be able to see what I was seeing. I have always left those encounters with a laundry list of ways we could make our website and service more accessible to our customers. But, I always wished I could get more of a firsthand look from their perspective.
I recently had the privilege of traveling to Junior Blind of America to witness people who are visually impaired and working in contact center roles. In addition to having a school for K through 12, Junior Blind trains visually impaired adults to use various technologies to make them successful in the working world. Much of the training prepares them for careers in contact centers roles. Here are just a couple of my takeaways from the experience.
Wowed by technology
I was completely floored by the level of technology being innovated for the visually impaired. I witnessed agents using JAWS (Job Access With Speech), which is software that reads everything on the computer screen for an agent. Contact center agents are typically equipped with a split headset. In one ear they hear JAWS and in the other they hear the customer.
DaVinci HD is a system with a camera. Agents with some sight can place documents under the camera, magnify the text, and even change the text and background colors. Other screen magnification programs are used to allow agents to quickly magnify their screen so they can read it.
By far, the most amazing was the Braille Display, which looks like a funky keyboard. This display features six buttons that can be used for typing in braille. In additional, it features a braille display that allows users to read the words on a webpage in braille. As they scroll through the page, the braille changes. I have every reason to believe that any contact center agent using this assistive technology can be as, if not more, proficient as many agents with perfect eyesight!
Amazed by the people
My second takeaway was the people. I met both Mark and Bert who were the people responsible for training the students on the technology. They had two things in common. First, they were both blind from birth. Second, they have turned that challenge into an advantage. For any prospective employees going through their training program, a couple values ring true.
1. A visual impairment is not an excuse- In the working world, there is no excuse for being late to work or a myriad of other things. Employers need their employees to be reliable and proficient.
2. Agents must be proficient- As they take their employees through their training program, their goal is to ensure that they are proficient on the technology required to be successful in a contact center role.
As I consider how to better support visually impaired customers and possibly hire visually impaired employees, I found this experience to be incredibly insightful. Finally, if you are considering hiring someone with a visual impairment in your contact center, there may be state and federal programs to assist with the selection of employees and the purchase of and training on the use of various assistive technologies.