Ofcom text relay services research
Text Relay enables people with hearing and/or speech impairments to communicate with others through telephone or textphone equipment.
Since October 2014, all UK landline and mobile have provided customers an improved text relay service called Next Generation Text Relay (NGTR). This service allows users to communicate using a variety of devices such as smartphones, tablets and PCs, using an app. Currently, the only approved service is supplied by BT.
Ofcom commissioned research with text relay users before and after the launch of Next Generation Text Relay. This was carried out by Opinion Leader and included quantitative and qualitative elements. The quantitative research included a diary exercise, and the qualitative research included interviews, with communication support (e.g. sign language interpreters) where necessary.
- Text relay is more frequently used in a functional capacity to contact services or colleagues as opposed to socialising with family and friends, where channels like SMS, web-chat and Skype were preferred.
- Incoming calls, especially on mobile, were a new experience for many participants. Questions included:
What if I don’t feel my phone vibrating or see the display?
What if it’s not convenient to answer?
What if I miss a call and the caller leaves a voicemail?
These questions reflect the fact that incoming calls are now much easier to receive. We have published advice about how to switch voicemail on and off.
- Some users thought that they could not receive a call if the NGT app was disconnected. The app disconnects after each call in order to conserve battery life and minimise data consumption, and reconnects when a call is made or received. We have also published advice about this.
- Several users needed technical support. A few had never downloaded an app before and needed help with this, and some people found the set-up instructions, particularly linking the number with the app, complicated. Several users suggested that BSL videos on the NGT website would help users with set-up, and we understand that BT has now commissioned an agency to work on these.
User satisfaction with text relay remains high across a range of measures. This is consistent with BT’s annual report of the service, which shows that the service is regularly exceeding the KPIs set by Ofcom, and that the average number of complaints is 1 per 6,250 calls.