Standard Bank's Customer Contact Centre in Johannesburg is employing the listening skills of 19 blind and partially-sighted staff members to look after quality assurance. 

The staff members are using their listening skills to ensure that call centre agents are more empathetic in their handling of customer queries.
Hired in line with the bank’s equal opportunity policy, the five partially-sighted and 14 blind staffers were originally employed as switchboard operators, but after six months of training are now being utilised to evaluate quality in the handling of inbound and outgoing calls at one of the busiest call centres in the country – averaging 42-million calls annually.
“Our blind and partially sighted staffers are not actually handling the calls themselves – they are helping us to evaluate the calls we receive and how they are handled by our call centre staff,” explains Ross Moody, Standard Bank’s Head of Shared Services: Contact Centres.
“They provide feedback so that quality can be maintained or improved and gaps can be identified and filled where necessary.”
Importantly, says Moody, Standard Bank has discovered that its blind and partially-sighted staffers are definitely more empathetic listeners. Calibration sessions will be held so that they are able to share their listening methods with other staff members who evaluate quality “and see it in a different light” after experiencing this input.
As customer experience consultants with exceptional listening skills, these specially gifted staffers are also going to be trained to conduct customer surveys.
“The tone of someone’s voice tells us a lot about the emotions of the caller or operator. Our blind and partially sighted staffers are particularly good at picking this up as they are not used to relying on visual clues,” adds Moody.
Significantly, Standard Bank’s blind and partially sighted staffers – some of whom had never been exposed to computers – have learnt to navigate word documents, spreadsheets and E-mails since joining the bank in August last year.
What’s more, seven guide dogs have learnt to navigate and guide their owners around the bank’s Simmonds Street head office, living up to their “man’s best friend” tag.