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Elderly woman

Dementia has become a much bigger issue in society and BT is keen to ensure that communications for affected people can be maintained for as long as possible. The company has a long history of supporting people who need extra help with communications and we are proud to work with the Alzheimer’s Society, helping to create a truly Dementia Friendly society, where all of us consider how we think and feel about dementia and provide practical support for those affected.

Practical support

On our Including You website, we provide advice for people who need extra help with communication and their carers, for example. We have set up a dedicated dementia support team to help consumers who want loved ones to retain independence in the home. The team provides two products, both free of charge, to help control call costs, the first is 123 & 118 call barring which restricts calls and increasing call charges to these short prefix numbers. For someone who might be at the mid-stages of dementia, network controlled calling allows normal incoming calls and only allows up to 10 numbers to be called (as agreed with the family), typically doctor, hospital, carer, etc. and is ideal for someone who makes repetitive calls when their memory might be fading.

Power of Attorney (PoA)

In December 2013, BT set-up processes to accept and handle PoA and Court of Protection (Deputyship) Orders, go to bt.com/poa. We made the process really simple for people to register a PoA and be able to contact us when managing a BT account on behalf of someone else. For example, we:

  • we only request a certified copy (never an original)
  • we place a ‘PoA flag’ on the account, which avoids people having to repeat themselves each time they contact BT on behalf of someone
  • provide ‘account protection’ and remove from our normal billing processes, allowing people time to pay bills and redirecting the bills to the PoA holder.
  • As a result of our PoA work, BT worked with a group of organisations to help them develop best-practice guidelines on handling PoA requests. The group is part of the Prime Minister’s Dementia Friendly Communities Champion Group and included the Alzheimer’s Society, the Law Society and the Office of the Public Guardian.

    Contacting BT - natural language interactive voice recognition (IVR)

    We work closely with customers to gather insights on how to make contact with BT easy. From this we developed natural language IVR. We captured over 80,000 ‘utterances’ (actual customer words telling us why they’re calling) and mapped these to ‘apptags’, the reason for customers’ calls. Once a customer mentions the reason for the call we may need to ask additional questions to clarify what the customer wants to discuss. For example, if the customer says: “Broadband,” and that’s not enough for us to get the call to the right place we ask: “Is it to discuss our broadband package?” which allows us to refine the call direction.

    Once we know what the customer wants to discuss, we ask them for their telephone number. The combination of call reason and telephone number allows us to route to the right adviser. Natural language IVR replaced 16 options for customers to choose and has overcome confusion where customers perhaps couldn’t recall, for example, what was mentioned on option 1, option 2, etc. Natural language allows customers to tell us in their own words why they are calling. It’s also a much quicker experience and since its initial introduction in 2012, we’ve reduced the time customers spend in our IVR by over 40 seconds.

    Protected Service Scheme (PSS)

    PSS holds details of a nominated third party whom we can contact if we can’t make contact with the customer. This free service protects customers if they are unable to pay their phone bill at the requested time. It is helpful for customers who might find themselves for example, unexpectedly in hospital, although this service is available to any customer who wishes to nominate a third party. Go to bt.com/pss.

    Community engagement

    BT has set up over 150 Try Before You Buy centres with organisations supporting independent living where people can handle products and get advice on the best product for them in a non-sales environment. The company produces two monthly newsletters, the first, called Connections, is emailed to thousands of health and social care professionals and the other, Consumer News, is emailed bi-monthly to consumer groups. BT also attends around a dozen regional and national events to show-case products, including the Alzheimer’s Show and 50+ shows.