Under the Customer Service Standard of the AODA, service providers’ policies must state that they welcome customers using communication devices. In our last article, we described what a few communication devices are. In this article, we offer some best practices for serving customers with communication devices.
Best Practices for Serving Customers with Communication Devices
Providers should speak to a customer with a communication device directly instead of addressing a companion or support person. Moreover, if a provider wants clarification about how someone uses their communication device, they should ask the owner of the device, not a companion or support person. People who use communication devices often explain how their devices work, and they may have written explanations prepared in advance.
Similarly, providers should speak naturally when talking to a customer using a communication device. Customers’ hearing aids, cochlear implants, or speechreading skills allow them to understand speech at natural speed and volume. Moreover, people using communication boards or AACs often have average hearing.
Furthermore, providers should not assume that a customer needs help simply because the providers notice the customer’s disability. Instead, providers should approach the customer and say that they are willing to offer assistance in the same way they would greet any customer. The customer can then request assistance or explain the best way for the provider to help.
More AboutCommunication Devices
Some people use different devices at different times or for different activities. For instance, a lawyer’s client may use VRS for appointments involving legal matters but write or speechread at a store. In another example, someone might use a library’s communication board to converse with staff about their service needs but bring their own board when visiting their family doctor.
It is acceptable to use language or figures of speech related to hearing or speaking, such as “Have you heard about…” or “Can you say that again?”.
Providers should focus on what customers are saying, not how they are saying it.
In addition, providers should give customers time to express themselves at their own pace. Providers should wait for customers to finish what they are saying, not state what they think the customers’ ideas are. However, once a customer is finished, a provider who wishes to make sure they have understood the customer correctly may state what they think the customer has said.
A communication device is part of its owner’s personal space. Therefore, providers should only touch someone’s device when that person has given them permission.
If service providers follow these best practices for serving customers with communication devices, they can truly welcome all customers.