Lip reading through a drive thru…

Who doesn’t enjoy a coffee on a long drive? (Or even a short drive to be honest!) It’s kind of a given, don’t you think? Part of what gets you through the traffic and road works and adds a little ‘extra’ ingredient’ to your journey.  Of course, you must factor in the extra time needed to stop and purchase your beverage. But ‘Drive Thu’ coffee stops are popping up all over the UK now, making it more convenient.  One such example is Starbucks at Warwick Services. When I saw it on a recent trip to Birmingham, it was happiness all around, as I could grab my treat without leaving the car – but it raised a problem around lip reading.

Let me share this experience with you

After exiting at the right junction when seeing the signs, I patiently waited in the queue. Upon seeing how I would order, I recalled the experiences many of my deaf friends had shared with me.
They highlighted to me the difficulty of speaking through a microphone to communicate an order without looking at the person face to face. Not ideal as a deaf person as you obviously can’t access any of the questions to make a response.  Which leaves only one option. To get out of the car and go into the shop. More than a little frustrating when you know there is a quicker, more convenient way available to everyone else, would you agree?

Technology is allowing for great strides forward

Back to my trip to Birmingham. On this particular and memorable occasion, I experienced first-hand how technology is starting to contribute to positive customer experiences for deaf people.
When driving through to the speaking pillar, I was welcomed by a voice and a face. What a shock! I was so used to verbally giving my response that this was not expected at all.
A video had been positioned in front of the person serving me so I could actually see their face! What a super ingenious way to maintain that all-important human interaction; whilst speeding up the ordering process for both of us.

Is voice recognition the key here?

Could this work for deaf customers if it were rolled out across the UK today?

In this instance, the picture was still very pixelated, so I’m not certain that you would ever be able to lip-read through a screen like this. But I have no doubt that we will soon have access to the technology that enables a clear visual with live subtitles. Yes, my friends, those days are coming!
As voice recognition gets more powerful, it seems to me there could be a massive opportunity for forward-thinking businesses to use this to serve deaf customers better.
Can you imagine a Bank or a Supermarket positioning a screen by the till or service point that produced live verbatim subtitling; so deaf customers could read what the member of staff was saying? This would mean a world where deaf customers don’t have to rely solely on hearing loops in often noisy environments.
It would certainly offer deaf customer access to everyday communication like they’ve never experienced before. That would be pretty amazing, wouldn’t it?

My key takeaway: 

Starbucks is looking at different ways to use technology to improve its customer experience. What can you do to improve yours?


Check out these articles:

Understanding your deaf customer journey 

1. The deaf customer experience – Solutions 

2. The deaf customer experience – Communication 

3. The deaf customer experience – Training