I recently blogged about the ClearCaptions real-time captioning service – an app that helps the hard of hearing to make and receive phone calls more easily. With a millions Americans completely deaf and ten million classified as hard of hearing services like this are much more than just niche. There are genuine business opportunities for companies that can offer better services to people with different abilities.
I was thinking about this again because I read an article detailing just how many companies are now using messenger tools like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp as customer service channels. Clearly this switch to the use of text is great news for the hard of hearing – if you are using WhatsApp as a service channel then nobody knows about the quality of your hearing.
However, the obvious parallel is that if people are making fewer calls and using text far more for communication then doesn’t this disadvantage those who are visually challenged? I know myself that text has become far more popular than calls and I see younger people I know barely making any calls today – communication is entirely visual using social network comments, text, or photos.
I saw details of a competition hosted by the British government last year where they offered cash prizes to companies developing the best ideas for assistive technologies – a bit like a government led venture capital operation. Of course there should not really be a need for government financing of these tools when so many people could be helped.
The National Federation of the Blind data suggests that around 7.3 million people have a visual disability in the USA. This may not imply complete blindness, but certainly it is bad enough to be life affecting.
So if 7.3 million people need help visually interacting with services and 10 million people cannot hear very well then there are an enormous number of people in the USA that would benefit from a more innovative approach to customer service. I believe that no customer service operation that aims for true omnichannel status can really consider itself complete unless these extra needs are met.
Of course it requires investment for customer service teams to cater to customers with additional needs, but there are real opportunities for differentiation here. Companies that do this right have literally millions of potential customers that would appreciate how their custom is valued.
Photo by Jill Encarnacion licensed under Creative Commons.