So, let’s start things off with a couple of questions… When was the last time you as a blind or visually impaired person went into your mobile carrier’s store and purchased a new device? What was the experience like? Was it smooth as silk or was it a bit awkward? If the latter, that’s typical when a sighted sales rep deals with a blind or visually impaired person. The experience I had yesterday, on the other hand could not have gone better, and I’d like to share it with you folks as an example of what the ideal interaction should be like between a blind/visually impaired customer and their mobile carrier.
I’ve been a customer of T-Mobile here in the US for a bit over a year now, mostly because of their switch to a no-contract service and the ability to finance a new device purchase with minimal outlay out the door. Another bonus for me is that T-Mobile’s US headquarters is in a suburb of the Seattle area, so in a way it’s a local company to me since I live in a nearby Seattle area suburb as well. So far, with the exception of a debacle involving 3 Nexus 5 devices being ruined by the first versions of Android 5.0 within a 3 week period over the Christmas/New Year’s holiday, my experience has been quite good, and unless something really bad happens, I plan to stick with T-Mobile for the foreseeable future.
Yesterday, I was interested in getting myself a new Android device, but I wanted to stay within a budget, since I still have other obligations I must pay for. I was running the usual errands I have to take care of on payday, but decided to pop into my neighborhood T-Mobile store to see if I could snag a newer device for myself. I had a trusted sighted friend along, since he was acting as my driver and sighted guide for the day… We walk into the T-Mobile store, being instantly greeted by a pleasant female voice saying “Welcome to T-Mobile”. A brief 2 or 3 minute wait for her to finish up with a customer already in the store, and it was my turn. I approach the counter, explaining that I was in the market for a new device and feeling that I’ve outgrown the device I currently had. Of course, there was the formality of giving her my mobile number and my identification card, and once she verified that info, she starts pulling up info to see what new devices I might be interested in. She mentions that if I so chose, I could snag the Samsung Galaxy S6 for a small outlay, or the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge for just a bit more. I think I surprised her a bit by my reaction, as I honestly wasn’t expecting to be able to afford such a high-end device, but in a moment we were over at the display featuring the S6 and S6 Edge.
What really surprised me was when the rep, without me having to ask first activated Galaxy Talkback and stepped back so I could have a chance to play with both devices there at the display. That’s not typical in my experience… most reps from other carriers I’ve dealt with in the past have talked up the phone but never offered to give me the chance to experience a device on my own terms. Of course, I had a few quick questions for the rep, which she answered quickly and fully, always making sure that my concerns as a visually impaired customer were addressed. After a few minutes of experimenting with both the Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge, I decided on the S6, since the S6 Edge seemed slightly impractical to me with those curved edges. Nice phone, but the curved edges weren’t my cup of tea.
The rep and I moved back to her station within the store, and after a brief discussion about accessories, she brought over a few cases for me to experiment with, which I selected a wallet-style case, learning that in addition to the S6, I could finance the accessories I wanted, so that case and a screen protector were added to the items I was purchasing. Next, it was a simple matter of swiping my debit card to take care of the outlay, which came out to around $80 US and dealing with a couple of signatures she needed from me. I’ll stop and point out that my sighted friend was chilling out at the front of the store the entire time, texting some of his other friends while I was making my purchase and had nothing significant to do with the transaction except for me asking his opinion on which color of the S6 I should get… the white one as it happened. All in all, the experience was very smooth, incredibly professional and definitely left me feeling satisfied with my purchasing experience.
Finally, I’ll conclude by saying this… There is something to be said when a company treats its customers in a dignified manner and addresses them on their own terms. Whomever trained the sales rep at the White Center T-Mobile store that I worked with knew exactly what they were doing when they gave her training, and I give her and her manager kudos for one of the best customer service experiences that I’ve ever had anywhere. As blind or visually impaired people, we should be treated with the respect and dignity we deserve, and T-Mobile got it right.