I recently caught an episode of the BBC one show, Rip-off Britain. On this episode, they discussed car breakdown cover and how this affected who are deaf or have a hearing loss.

During the segment they interviewed the lovely Lesley and Brenda, from Merseyside about their experiences with car breakdown cover.

The couple wanted to use a company they could trust and rely on. The pair explained that they had found a suitable company to provide this cover, as they found their adverts interesting. And they thought the company gave a common sense approach to breakdown rescue cover.  The reviews all looked good; but they were uncertain about whether they were from hearing people who could access the service from the telephone.

They had had previously been in situations where their car had broken down. It had taken four hours to get help and they didn’t want this to happen again.

To put this into context, when hearing customers breakdown they can easily use the telephone to call a breakdown service. They will know exactly what is happening and exactly when to expect the rescue vehicle, etc. 

For a deaf customer it’s a little different. They need to think about what contact options are going to work. For example, is there is a text service, whereby a deaf customer can text to let the breakdown service know they have broken down? Even if there is, what communication can be shared during this text service?  Will it achieve the same level of communication you would have with hearing customers?  Will you be able to offer the same level of reassurance?

Back to Lesley and Brenda. Their policy details arrived through the post, but it was very difficult to see the text number on the letter. Despite looking over it carefully they could not spot it anywhere. They thought maybe they would receive another letter with the text number detailed. But, just in case, they decided to send a letter to the company to request these details. The only response was another letter with the three line reply saying please refer to your policy.  They went through their policy again could not find these details.

They wrote another letter back saying that they definitely could not find the text number; and again they received no detailed response. This issue was important to Lesley and Brenda because, as far as they were concerned, they didn’t have clarity. They weren’t sure if they would receive the service they particularly needed and expected. Because without the text service their cover was as good as useless to them.

It’s clear here that in this situation, the response could have simply detailed the number to make it easy for the customer.  It really demonstrates how many businesses are still letting deaf customers down when it comes to the challenge of navigating customer services channels.

Sending standard letters in response to very specific enquiries from customers leads to frustration and unnecessary anxiety for the customer. And in turn, a lack of belief in the brand develops.

As they were getting nowhere, they took their complaint to the Financial Ombudsman. It prompted a response and they received a refund for all of the premiums; and also, offer £50 by way of an apology. They responded by explaining that they provided the number for the text service on three separate occasions. Once to a neighbour during the call when the policy was purchased and twice in writing in response to their request.

However, despite the business believing that they had given the customer all they needed, the deaf couple still didn’t have the details they required to use their policy fully.

In situations like this there is a real mismatch between what the company believes they have provided and what the deaf person needs. Only when you fully understand how a deaf customer accesses your industry can you can offer the right level of service.