“Can you describe the issue?” says the customer service agent.
Whether it’s software or shampoo, this is not always the easiest question to answer – particularly if you are one of the 253 million individuals worldwide who are blind or visually impaired. Four leaders in their industries have come together, on the occasion of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, to offer customer service calls that work, even if the customer can’t see the problem at hand.
Procter and Gamble’s Herbal Essences, Lloyds Banking Group, Google and Microsoft all joined forces this week to announce a shared commitment to supporting customers with visual impairments by joining the Be My Eyes platform as providers of video customer service for blind and low vision customers.
The free mobile app, Be My Eyes, has grown into the world’s largest community support platform of its kind, amassing a network of more than 2 million volunteers to act as on-call visual interpreters for blind and low-vision populations in more than 150 countries and 180 languages.
In 2018, Be My Eyes announced that it was inviting companies to join the platform to provide the blindness community free, expert support for specific products and services. Unlike traditional customer service, all calls are conducted over live video using the blind or low-vision person’s mobile camera, allowing customer service representatives to see and solve a blind or low-vision user’s problem quicker than ever before.
“Getting support over the phone or via text often demands visual translation from the customer,” says Christian Erfurt, CEO of Be My Eyes. “But that excludes millions of people from getting the solutions they need. By allowing companies to connect with our community via Be My Eyes, we hope to bridge some major gaps in service, raise awareness about digital and physical accessibility, and help all of our partners design better experiences for everyone.”
P&G’s Herbal Essences hair care brand is working with Be My Eyes to offer hair help, allowing blind customers to better locate products, differentiate bottles, read product ingredients or instructions, or even consult on proper hair care needs. This is Herbal Essences next step forward in inclusive design, efforts spearheaded by Sumaira “Sam” Latif, P&G’s Accessibility Leader.
“I know from personal experience that little things that sighted people enjoy – like a shower or getting ready – can be stressful when blind,” shares Latif. “I personally use Be My Eyes about five times a day - it helps me with many things I used to stress about, including my hair and make-up. I am so pleased Herbal Essences is offering this level of customer service and support to our community.” Lynn Hicks, Herbal Essences’ North America Brand Manager adds: “The Herbal Essences team are already Be My Eyes volunteers and we are excited to take this next step as a brand partner.”
Herbal Essences support will be available through Be My Eyes starting in June.
Lloyds Banking Group, UK’s largest retail and commercial bank, announced in April that it is now providing video support, offering Lloyds, Bank of Scotland, and Halifax customers a direct video call button in the Be My Eyes app. Be My Eyes users can call Lloyds for help with paper statements, online banking, ATMs and more.
“We’re always looking at new ways to make banking easier for customers, and we are the first bank to trial this pioneering smartphone technology to assist our blind and partially sighted customers. Our colleagues will be on hand to support customers with their everyday banking in a more accessible way, and we are already getting positive feedback from customers who have said they feel more independent as a result.” - Stephen Noakes, Retail Transformation Director, Lloyds Banking Group.
Google joined the Be My Eyes platform in March, with a dedicated Disability Support team that fields queries related to any and all Google products and is well versed in the technical aspects of digital accessibility, assistive technology and the interface of the two.
"The Disability Support team has been on the Be My Eyes platform since March and it’s been incredible to know we are connecting with the blind and low vision community on a daily basis. Not only do people love knowing they can reach us easily through the Be My Eyes app, but it's thrilling to see how much easier it is to support them via video." - Kyndra LoCoco, Accessibility Partner & Community Programs Manager, Google.
Microsoft first partnered with Be My Eyes in 2018, and now offers live video support in 12 countries, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Microsoft’s Disability Answer Desk also staffs representatives well-versed in screen reader and AT use cases.
"Technology can play an important role to empower people who are blind or with low vision. That is why we are passionate about collaborating with Be My Eyes to help support their customers with Microsoft’s Disability Answer Desk, a free 24/7 service where customers can connect directly with support agents. From getting issues resolved faster and educating more people about accessibility features in our products to gaining valuable customer feedback, our collaboration with Be My Eyes has been a rewarding experience." - Chitra Jayachandran, Sr. Technical Advisor, Microsoft.
Press Contact Be My Eyes:
Alexander Hauerslev Jensen
CCO, Be My Eyes