Relay UK app

BT has launched a new app that helps people with hearing difficulties communicate over the phone called Relay UK, a rebrand of its Next Generation Text Service.

Aiming to provide improved customer experience and including new functionality, the Ofcom-regulated service translates text to speech and vice versa with the help of a specially trained Relay Assistant based in one of BT’s contact centres around the country.

Users can connect to a call by selecting one of three options: Type & Read, Speak & Read, or Type & Hear.

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The release of the Relay UK app follows research commissioned by BT alongside the UK Council on Deafness that revealed large numbers of people with hearing loss struggle with phone calls and need to ask friends or family for help.

According to the poll of 129 nationally representative UK adults who are deaf or hard of hearing, only one in 20 noted being able to complete tasks over the phone, leaving 70 percent of the deaf community (8.4 million) to ask friends or family members for help with basic calls.

In addition, the research found that the calling experience for day-to-day tasks such as booking appointments (90 percent), paying bills (53 percent) or purchasing products and services (53 percent) was poor, with vital services such as healthcare and banking were inaccessible for a quarter of the deaf community.

“There are currently 12 million people in the UK who experience hearing loss and using the telephone remains a big barrier for them to communicate with friends and family, at work, with health care providers, banks and other services,” commented Jesal Vishnuram, Technology Manager at Action on Hearing Loss.

“Relay UK provides a vital text relay service to help people communicate by phone with the use of a text relay assistant in real-time. This service can be pivotal in keeping people with hearing loss and deafness in employment, access healthcare including emergency services and other services as well as help keep them in touch with friends and family.”

The biggest barrier to a successful call was frontline staff who are not trained or are inexperienced at taking calls from deaf customers, suggested the BT study, whilst the use of automated transfer services that were inaudible and a lack of available technology to handle calls were also identified as being problematic for the deaf community.

Katherine Ainley, MD of BT Ventures, said: “We are urging businesses to alert frontline staff to the service and download our helpful Relay UK Business Toolkit, which includes educational content about the service – and what to expect when taking a call from one of our Relay Assistants. We hope that by downloading the toolkit, businesses will be able to provide a seamless call experience for their deaf customers.”

Free to use and available now, the Relay UK app is available to BT mobile customers throughout the UK.

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