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Shopping for TTY-Compatible Digital Wireless Handsets

Report to ATIS Wireless TTY Forum
Shopping for TTY over Wireless

October 2-4, 2002
Judy Harkins, Cary Barbin, and Paula Tucker
Gallaudet University


Within a 48-hour period, individual staff members posed as shoppers and visited a total of 24 retail sales outlets in the Baltimore-Washington area, during non-peak shop hours. Each took a compliant TTY with cable to the retail outlets. Each asked for help in identifying which handsets would work with the TTY. Shoppers probed further when they were told that the sales rep did not know, or when told that there were no phones.

Two of the staff were hearing and one deaf; the deaf member sometimes used the assistance of a family member for interpretation. Thus the shopping situation was easier than a deaf customer might normally experience.

In reporting the results, we have removed identifying information about the carriers. Reports on their own stores are being provided to the carriers individually.

General observations:
  1. Although only a few test calls were possible from retail sites, all of the test calls on phones with the TTY feature were error-free. (Congratulations and thanks to the engineers!)
  2. None of the sales personnel knew anything about TTYs or compatible handsets. Some were able to find information in print literature, a few had seen TTY feature in a handset menu, some were able to phone the carrier for information or check the intranet. But many confidently said “no”, and were sure they couldn’t help. One carrier consistently and flatly said they did not support TTY.
  3. Some thought that all phones would be compatible as they had a 2.5 mm jack. When a test call resulted in a garbled message, they then concluded that none of the phones would work. (This is logical, after all.)
  4. If sales staff were able to locate one compatible model, that was the end of the story. Few wanted to help find additional compatible models.
  5. Sales staff often did not have manuals available to check on compatibility features. They were not willing to open manuals that were sealed in cellophane.
  6. Many stores had few or no activated phones for TTY test calls.
  7. The vast majority of store flyers advertising handsets were not helpful. Almost none indicated TTY compatibility as a feature. (We hope this is a temporary problem, as this alone will help deaf shoppers to independently identify handsets.)
  8. There were a few gems of salespeople who tried hard to help. Some of them were frustrated by the difficulty in finding the information they needed.
  9. As we have said many times, The Web will be an important source of information. Only one carrier website clearly identified TTY compatible handsets. One other website also contained this information, but it was impossible to find unless you knew where to look. Three carriers have good FAQs.
Recommendations for wireless service providers:
  1. Post information on the website and make it easy to find. Clearly advise that customers buy the TTY first and bring it with them if they wish to look at handsets in a retail outlet. Include a FAQ.
  2. Label flyers and boxes with TTY logo.
  3. Allow TTY test calls in stores.
  4. Review information on customer support intranet for accuracy.
  5. Sales support information (e.g., on intranet) should include information about TTY and VCO, and how to set handsets to TTY.
  6. Training should include information on TTY and where to look for information to help customers.
Specific Results of visits:
  1. (Carrier store) Personnel did not know, but willing to help. Rep looked for manual/other paperwork, and asked others in store. Was able to figure it out. Flyers were labeled. Boxes were labeled. Able to make an error-free call.
  2. (Carrier store) Personnel did not know but offered to check intranet. Showed intranet screen to shopper. There were four active compatible phones, but no TTY feature showing in them. Sales rep went back to intranet site then checked with tech person. Identified as firmware problem. Customer has to actively request in order to see TTY feature; cannot test in store. Intranet had erroneous information on it.
  3. (Carrier store) Personnel referred shopper to technical staff. Technical staff said it should work with any headset-jack-equipped phone. One demo phone. Shopper tried it with TTY – no TTY feature, extreme garbling. Sales person unmoved by this problem.
  4. (Carrier store) Personnel first said, "No we do not have it". Shopper questioned further, asked if anyone else would know? Rep replied no. Shopper asked for the manager. After conferring, the manager gave a print out from the intranet/internet on HAC, and on TTY. Told shopper to "Call the TTY manufacturer.” Shopper said, “I do have a TTY here." Shopper found the name of a handset in the materials he had been given. Asked to try handset. Staff were unhelpful. But shopper persisted and was able to make an error-free call.
  5. (Carrier store) Two reps did not know. Tech person did not know, said they did not have anything. Store manager advised to try a competing carrier.
  6. (Big box store) Personnel did not know but called carrier. Carrier’s customer support said "there is no such thing; it has been replaced by text messaging and e-mail. Or you can call an operator and have them make the call for you."
  7. (Carrier store) Personnel said they did not know and did not offer to check. Shopper probed and asked if anyone else knew. Another staff member happened to have seen it on a menu in the phone. Shopper able to make an error-free call. Flyers not labeled. Other handsets not identified by staff.
  8. (Third party store) Personnel did not know but checked. Tried personal phone; did not work with TTY. Referred shopper to carrier’s store.
  9. (Carrier store) Had no idea what shopper was talking about. Unwilling to look at phone manuals “wrapped in cellophane.” Shopper probed to ask if there was any way to call or check? No. (When shopper arrived, three workers were smoking outside and chatting, not attending to store.)
  10. (Third party store) Personnel didn’t know but advised shopper that if it fit in the headset jack, it should work. Shopper placed a call, garbled. When it garbled personnel concluded that none of them would work.
  11. (Carrier store) Personnel said no, we do not have anything. Probed to ask if anyone else would know? Manager said all were compatible, if they had 2.5 mm headset jack. Shopper hinted there might need to be something on the menu. Manager then looked at documentation, found the Motorola V.60. (Carrier’s flyer for that phone did not indicate TTY feature, but did have the carrier’s TTY number.) Only handset identified as available. Salesperson could not set it up.
  12. (Carrier store) Personnel said they did not think they had anything like that. Shopper asked them to check. Showed shopper a full-color brochure in which it said that their service does not work with TTY. After further probing by shopper, carrier told shopper to go to third party (mail order) company for handset and then bring in handset to activate.
  13. (Carrier store) Personnel did not know but were helpful. Thought plugging into headset would be enough; when call was garbled on two handsets (no TTY feature could be found on them), referred caller to in-store line to customer support (voice line). Helped to get through to customer support, which gave the names of many phone models – including those that had been tried in-store but did not have the TTY feature. Shopper puzzled! Personnel checked Intranet and found that shopper needed to get a special code to use TTY feature. Shopper was shown intranet, where some misleading information was observed.
  14. (Third party store) Senior manager was the person helping shopper. Said to call Ultratec because they could not be expected to know. Shopper asked if they could call carrier’s customer service. Rep: "Have you ever tried calling them? – not easy." Did call customer support, and six phones were listed. No demo phones available in store.
  15. (Third party store) Personnel immediately found a flyer for a compatible phone and opened a box to let shopper test the menus. No phones in service for a test call. Offered to let shopper call on his personal phone if shopper came back another time after switching to the TTY phone. Shopper declined but effort was appreciated.
  16. (Third party store) Personnel did not know, but thought that any headset-equipped handset would work. One demo handset in store, not charged. Shopper waited until it was charged enough to make a call while plugged in. Result was garbling. Shopper asked if there were any newer phones. Personnel allowed shopper to try on his personal phone – no TTY feature. Shopper was referred to carrier store.
  17. (Carrier store) Store manager said they did not have anything like that. When asked by shopper to verify, said again that carrier does not have anything, try another carrier.
  18. (Carrier store) Very proactive customer service at this location. Sales person used to work for AT&T, knew what a TTY was, but no knowledge of current situation. Looked on computer, called, and seemed frustrated that she couldn’t find the answer. Found two handsets after some effort. Did not know how to set it up but figured it out. Made successful calls with both. Showed other sales people so they would know. Apologetic. No labeling of boxes.
  19. (Kiosk at big box store). Personnel said no, but called manager. There was only one working phone available without TTY feature. When sales rep’s phone call was becoming long, shopper volunteered to check elsewhere.
  20. (Carrier store) Personnel did not know but offered to check. Got on phone, surprised to learn that they had models. Rep found menu and feature. Also voluntarily checked other handsets for feature. All phones were active, test calls good. Very positive experience (deaf shopper).
  21. (Carrier store) Personnel vaguely remembered something about TTY. Looked at many flyers. “I was not trained on this.” Shopper asked them to check with customer service. After a phone call, brought out two TTY-compatible handsets. Boxes were not labeled. No active phones to make a test call.
  22. (Carrier store) Personnel said no; shopper probed, rep checked, and then said definitively “No we (carrier) do not have anything like that.”
  23. (Carrier store) Personnel said they did not think it worked, but tried the technician for help. Technical support person had never heard of or seen anything on this. Shopper unable to access menus on most phones. Another bystander customer had seen TTY on his phone and showed the store staff on his menu. Staff puzzled, asked bystander “Did you just get a firmware upgrade?” Answer was yes. On a high-end phone in store, shopper made a successful call. Free firmware upgrades are provided at no cost.
  24. (Third party store) Sales rep did not know, said he didn’t think deaf people could use the phone. Shopper asked if he would check? No, he said he was sure of that.

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