Communication Aids23rd January 2014

Live Chats: a great alternative to phone calls!

Fed up of using the phone for customer support and make enquiries - we have a quick look at online 'live chat' facilities.

by Sarah Lawrence

Traditionally, getting advice or support for anything has been something of a nightmare for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people. Contacting Customer Services has almost always meant a lengthy phone call and often to premium rate numbers. Add into this the extra time taken due to having to call through Text Relay and costs very quickly mount up. These days however, there’s a new trend to provide an online ‘live chat’ facility which could soon put an end to those expensive calls.

I’ve recently had the chance to try out live chat facilities online with a few different companies. One of the first I’d seen was when I needed to update some details about the website and another when I had visited an insurance website as I needed to check on some details about a policy. As usual I was trying to avoid having to call the number on the paperwork so I was looking for an email address to contact them, but I spotted the ‘live chat’ button and thought I’d give it a go.

A small box popped up to tell me that I was about to be connected to ‘John’ who then asked me how he could help me and after confirming a few details, he was quickly able to give me the information I needed. It was really great to be able to have that instant response; the same sort of instant conversation as a phone call, but in a much more accessible and suitable way for me. Email is okay but you never know when (or even if!) you’ll get a reply; with the live chat you know that someone is right there reading your question and trying to help you as quickly as possible.

An example of a chatSeveral of our Deaf readers have also mentioned to us about using an online chat facility and how useful it was to them. For some Deaf people, English is their second or third language so can sometimes struggle with English, but I feel that having the chat online, just one comment or question at a time is much easier to deal with than receiving an email with a wall of text. It also gives the opportunity to say straight away, “Sorry, I don’t understand – what do you mean?” On some websites, I’ve also noticed that after your chat is complete you have the ability to send an email to yourself with a full transcript of the conversation – this means that you can then look back on the information and check over it or remind yourself of anything you’ve forgotten.

The NDCS are now offering an online chat facility too; the UK’s first Live Chat Helpline on childhood deafness. This gives another method for parents to contact them for information and even for Deaf young people themselves to contact the NDCS if they are looking for information or support.

There are lots of technology and online stores offering this service already like Amazon and Nokia but also other organisations are starting to realise the potential too. We hope this is a trend that continues to grow and soon lots more companies and organisations will be offering the facility for access to instant advice and information. For me, Chat facilities are far more deaf friendly than Call Centres. 

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Technology / Communication Aids

23rd January 2014