Hearing loss is a very real and widespread problem that impacts some 44 million U.S. adults. But that figure is projected to grow even higher due to the widespread and extended use of headphones and earbuds that allow users to listen to media on countless devices. For businesses, this represents both a challenge and an opportunity.
Because hearing-impaired consumers also want to interact with brands much like the general public, companies will need to do more for this segment of the population who may not otherwise receive the same type of customer experience.
The good news is new digital channels are increasingly being used by consumers. In fact, more than half of Americans today don’t have landline phones in their homes, which means they rely exclusively on their mobile devices when contacting customer service departments. That doesn’t mean voice isn’t relevant. In fact, it remains the most important channel when customers can’t find answers through other means, or when they have more complicated issues, including billing questions.
Conversely, hearing-impaired consumers are often at an inherent disadvantage when they attempt to use voice services, and they can grow increasingly frustrated and abandon calls to customer service departments altogether when their needs continue to not be met. That’s not something to ignore, as high call abandonment rates can significantly increase the cost per contact, and the cost of poor customer service across U.S. businesses is in the tens of billions of dollars each year.
Still, there are ways to avoid these scenarios and deliver a high level of customer care to hearing-impaired customers. One of the best options is implementing visual IVR to complement your traditional IVR system, enabling companies to help bridge the gap between voice and digital channels.
More specifically, visual IVR gives consumers the option to use the touchscreen on their smartphone to navigate the visual representation of an IVR tree. When consumers look to contact customer service on a website or mobile app, they can be presented with multiple options, in addition to voice.
For instance, rather than calling and listening to menu options or speaking into a speech recognition engine, customers can select from a menu of options on their screens. Alternatively, they may also be able to type their questions into a form field that will then leverage AI to guide them to answers, much like a voice engine is able to provide.
Even customers calling into an IVR system can be offered the option to receive a text message with a link to visual IVR options. This not only helps hearing-impaired customers more easily navigate the self-service portal, but it can also help any customer in loud environments or where speech might become disruptive to others.
Similarly, visual IVR solutions can provide easy access to live chat options if customers have additional questions or are unable to resolve issues on their own. Indeed, this is another way for the hearing-impaired population to receive high-quality service while avoiding aggravation.
Visual IVR can also be used in proactive campaigns, especially for customers who have expressed a preference for text-based engagement or who have previously used visual IVR capabilities.
Additionally, visual IVR can be integrated into a contact center’s data streams, enabling automated processes — including chatbots — to provide contextually relevant information with each interaction and helping resolve situations more efficiently. Likewise, that data can be appended to customer journey records. Thus, when customers escalate to live agents, these employees have the most accurate and up-to-date information to provide effective support without requiring customers to repeat the interactions from other channels.
By adding visual IVR to your customer service portfolio, your company will not only give hearing-impaired customers a highly effective digital channel to leverage for support, but it will also give all customers an additional channel with which to interact.
Ultimately, these enhancements — and the growing diversity of customer experience channels in general — sends a message to all customers that your business is aware of people’s different needs and can accommodate all parties, whether preferences are a result of necessity or convenience. Giving customers the opportunity to choose is a key step in delivering a positive experience.