Back in June this year, Louise Harte was enjoying a well-deserved holiday in Cyprus.

What she was blissfully unaware of at the time was that a series of events were about to unfold, with extremely upsetting consequences. What transpired would be hard enough for anyone to cope with. But as a deaf person, the issues and problems with the ensuing situation were magnified.
Here’s what happened.

A person(s) unknown to Louise managed to fool the staff in a Three mobile phone store that they were, in fact, Louise. By doing so, they managed to obtain a new sim card for her account.

This only came to light on the last day of the holiday when she tried to use her phone; without success. On her return to the UK, Louise headed immediately to a Three store to ask their assistance in getting her phone back to working order. It was then she realised there was an additional problem. Her bank card was blocked!

Therefore the next ‘urgent’ visit was to Metro Bank to investigate. She was understandably horrified to discover £8,371 had been transferred out of her account.

What pursued was a series of visits to branch; seemingly endless phone calls; and efforts to try to resolve the issues with both Three and Metro Bank.

Louise described these events as chaotic and stressful because she received little information on how to resolve the issues.

She felt utterly lost in what was happening; and as a deaf customer, found it very difficult to communicate with both large businesses.
And some things added further to her stress levels.

One: Third party permission had been set-up a year ago allowing her son to contact the bank on her behalf. But this had later on been removed.

Two: It took a whole month to book a BSL Interpreter. Although this then allowed Louise to discuss what had happened thoroughly, the wait only exacerbated the worry.

Since the dreadful scenario unfolded, Louise has shared a BSL rendition of the story to Facebook. This initial post has since been shared 893 times and I would imagine each of these 893 would have shared countless times again.

The video includes comments from many other deaf people, who have all experienced either poor customer service or fraud. They shared how disempowered this made them feel.
What we should understand is that other vulnerable customers may not be able to resolve the issues they face as quickly as Louise. Therefore it’s clear that much more consideration should be taken when considering how such customers’ needs are met.

Banking issues occurring whilst travelling abroad have always been a challenge for deaf people as they cannot easily contact the bank or other service providers. So the simple act of placing a vulnerability marker on the accounts of their deaf customers would be a massive step forward.

In Louise’s situation, if her account had stated she was deaf, should a hearing person have attempted to impersonate Louise, they would have failed. This would offer an additional level of safety to customers that are most vulnerable.

Also, offering vulnerable customers the option to add another person to the account to support them when needed would be an enormous benefit.
Louise is now calling upon businesses to take photos and add them to customers’ records. This could act as an extra level of safety as it would allow staff to check the appearance of customers.

When we talk about making these changes to improve the shopping experiences of deaf people; as in this case; although seemingly small, they could bring about massive enhancements to the experience of all customers, not just for deaf people.

Check out the story in our January 2019 Newsletter!

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