5 Customer Service Fails: The Holiday Edition

Posted by: Staff Writer on Nov. 11, 2013

With the holidays around the corner, customer service sometimes changes for the worst. How does that bode for deaf and hard of hearing customers who are trying to survive the most credit-disrupting, nerve-wracking, and elbow-jostling season of the year?

We already discussed 5 Customer Service Fails, which include the rushed quarterback pass, the pen and paper fumble, the deer and the headlights, the third-person, and the foot in the door.

Now, add the stressors of holiday shopping season: These mistakes seem to go on steroids.

To meet Q4 revenue goals, businesses need every edge in efficiency and profits. With Black Friday customers camping out for first dibs on a mega-deal, common decencies and patience often go out the window.

But, fret not! We present you the solutions to the five fails that ail this season:

FAIL #1: Not captioning your business videos

News flash: It's the 21st Century! There's captioning 10,000 feet in the air (see our in-flight captioning story for the down-low on fly-high accessibility), there's FCC-mandated captioning deadlines, and there's star fangled SONY captioning glasses at movie theatres.

So why not just take the inevitable next step, and just caption your online business videos already?

It's not as expensive as it sounds, either. Many businesses already use YouTube to build SEO presence, get free hosting, and take advantage of an API that can integrate YouTube dynamically into their sites.

Customer Service Tip: Instead of the shoddy beta-captioning that Google is still working to perfect, simply add caption files or transcripts. It literally takes just three easy steps.

FAIL #2: Un-democratic waiting line ethics

‘Tis the season of efficiency, and unfortunately, that means some businesses develop a habit of allowing customers to cut in front of the line when a deaf or hard of hearing person is "taking too long.”

Other than the usual double-dosage of human patience, technology can help:

"Every morning at Starbucks, I get through long lines quickly using Notes App. Instead of struggling to communicate for 2 minutes, I show the barista my order on my iPhone and we're finished," said a deaf-blind Apple store employee in our recent feature article.

Customer Service Tip: No matter how busy your establishment is, keep the line democratic. If it helps, try the pen and paper method to speed things up. If it’s truly protracted, go ahead and make an un-rushed quarterback pass (delegating to the manager).

FAIL #3: Passing the buck ... to the hearing person

What's ruder than FAIL #3 from our previous article, which is addressing the deaf person in third person? Assuming that this said deaf consumer's hearing friend is picking up the check.

This happens more often than not, and it may partially be ascribed to the Deaf Community's reputation as bad tippers (see: "Do You Know the Rules of Tipping?"). Until servers erase that bias, they may unconsciously foist the check onto someone - a hearing person - whom they believe more economically capable to handle the bill and may tip better.

There are exceptions: Perhaps the deaf person is a teen eating with his hearing parents. Or maybe it’s a first date between the deaf gal and her hearing suitor. But even then, it's still a reach to assume anything but these two going Dutch.

Customer Service Tip: No matter what your personal experience is with deaf tipping, or what the social dynamics appear to you, place the bill in the middle of the table or ask "would you like separate checks?"

FAIL #4: Unaccessible Holiday Santa’s   

For many families, mall Santa’s are a rite of passage. Whether Johnny cries in horror or gleefully rattles off his wish list, it’s captured on the camera for eternity. Since it only happens a few weeks a year, why not invest in accessible Santa’s?

As we learned while writing about A Signing Santa and the Miracle on 6th and Pine, all kinds of folks – not just deaf and hard of hearing ones – are smitten by a deaf-friendly Santa’s.

Customer Service Tip: Consider incorporating diversity and accessibility into your Santa programme. Whether you’re hiring a freelance Santa who does gigs for company holiday parties or a real estate open house, add “sign language” to the job description – or hire an interpreter-elf separately.

FAIL #5: Ignoring the rest of the supply chain

A vast majority of today’s customers avoid gridlocked parking lots and resort to online shopping.

But that doesn’t mean the “point of sale” challenge is eliminated for deaf and hard of hearing customers. For example, those of us who live in walk-up apartments often struggle with package deliveries that don’t respectfully acknowledge our shipping notes.

Many a missed delivery has resulted from a UPS or FedEx professional who continued to hit our buzzer or dial our phone number … instead of simply sending us a text message or e-mail as requested.

Secondly, don’t ignore the registration part of your accessibility strategy. E-commerce is a sticky area for accessibility: This summer, a deaf woman sued eBay, claiming that eBay’s identification system breaches federal and state laws by placing automated calls to new sellers, requiring them to listen to a PIN given verbally on the telephone, and then enter that into the site, to prove that the phone number they’ve provided is correct. Without help, deaf sellers cannot complete the verification.

Legal or not, the point is simple: Don’t be a jerk to the differently-abled users on your site.

Customer Service Tip: Whether you run an e-commerce site or are part of the delivery equation, be sure to include accessibility training for the tech professionals building your registration pages, and for the folks in charge of delivery.

Has a local business recently gone the extra mile to deliver deaf-friendly holiday customer service? We want to hear about it on www.deaffriendly.com


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