Understanding the Deaf customer experience

Providing outstanding customer service is a key focus for many businesses and organisations, particularly those which deal with customers face to face rather than online.

It’s how businesses build their brands, enhance their reputations and create loyalty and trust among their customer bases.

However, despite greater awareness and understanding of Deaf issues in recent years, when it comes to providing a great experience to Deaf customers, far too many organisations still fall short.

There are around 11m Deaf or Hard of Hearing people in the UK, but many still face discrimination when trying to access the same products and services as hearing people.

It can lead to anger and frustration on the part of the Deaf person, which can harm the brand and reputation of the organisation in question, especially in the age of social media, where people aren’t shy of sharing their feelings with the world.

However, with a better understanding of – and empathy towards – Deaf issues, most businesses can turn things around and provide an exceptional service to their Deaf and Hard of Hearing customers.

So, if you’re concerned that your customer experience isn’t as accessible and inclusive as it could be, here are a few things to consider.

Benefits of accessibility

Hearing loss is an invisible condition that is often overlooked in the world of business. However, it directly affects around 11m people in the UK and indirectly impacts their family, friends and carers.

So, making your business more accessible to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community will pay dividends in the long run. It can result in:

  • Increased sales
  • Improved customer loyalty and retention
  • Better service
  • Positive press coverage
  • Social impact
  • Enhanced brand reputation

There are some simple solutions your business can implement to improve the experience you offer to your Deaf and Hard of Hearing customers, including:

Adapting your premises

There are several things you can do to make your premises more accessible to Deaf customers.

Installing an induction loop amplifier will help improve sound quality for people who use hearing devices by eliminating ambient noise.

Making sure any video or audio content has captioning or subtitles is also crucial to help Deaf customers access it.

And equipping your premises with accessories adapted to the particular needs of Deaf people is also vital. This can be anything from a vibrating alarm clock or telephone with adjustable volume settings to indicator lights, flashing doorbell systems, or flashing, vibrating audible alarm systems to ensure visitor safety.

Review your online communications

It’s not just in your physical premises where you need to consider audio or video content. If you use videos to promote your business online, are they accessible to your Deaf customers?

Is your website DDA compliant?

Do your online forms allow Deaf and Hard of Hearing people to choose their preferred means of communication?

And do you offer chat-based live online support for customers who may not be comfortable calling you on the phone?

Designate quiet areas

If you run busy business premises with lots of background noise – a bar or restaurant, for example – it can be difficult for Deaf people to hear in group situations.

So, think about creating quiet spaces with less background noise, so Deaf customers can enjoy their time in your premises without feeling overwhelmed or uncomfortable because of the excess noise levels.

The same goes for lighting. As Deaf people are more reliant on visual communication cues, such as lip movements or facial expressions, dark or shadowy rooms can have a significant impact.

Staff training and awareness

Without staff training and awareness, you will never be able to empathise with – or deliver an outstanding service to – a Deaf audience.

So, building Deaf awareness and training into your business will help your organisation provide a more accessible and inclusive service to all your customers.

This can vary from helping your team understand the common barriers that Deaf people encounter daily to more in-depth training on how to better communicate with Deaf people.

Hire Deaf staff

There’s no better way of making your workplace fully inclusive than hiring Deaf employees.

They may bring skills and experience to your business that you don’t possess, but crucially, they will also bring a unique perspective that you’ll never be able to gain on your own.

Your deaf employees will be best placed to help you design a truly inclusive and accessible customer journey because of their own lived experience, which is extremely valuable indeed.

Make your customer experience more accessible

If you need to make your business more accessible to Deaf customers but aren’t quite sure where to start, Sign Solutions can help.

We provide BSL interpreting and translation services in-person or online, plus expert consultancy, to help ensure your organisation is as accessible as possible.

We can also provide a range of accredited communications professionals for Deaf, Deafblind and Hard of Hearing users in various sectors, from education and community to legal and healthcare.

To find out more, and for expert advice on which type of communication support will meet your needs, give us a call on 0843 178 0773, email bookings@signsolutions.uk.com or contact us via a BSL video interpreter.