In the bustling streets of Accra, Ghana’s capital, Stella Kunjan, a hearing-impaired resident of Osu, often felt like a fish out of water. The world around her buzzed with activity, but the barrier of silence stood tall. That changed when Vodafone Ghana’s SuperCare initiative came into her life, acting as a bridge between her silent world and the cacophony outside.
An industry-first launched in 2017, SuperCare is a dedicated customer service line for speech and hearing-impaired persons. The service operates via a dedicated short code *494#. In addition to providing this community with trained and specialised customer service personnel, Vodafone Ghana also offers unique SuperCare bundles, which provide data and SMS from as low as GHS2.50.
Beyond customer service
For many speech and hearing-impaired individuals, SuperCare is a service that helps them connect meaningfully with Vodafone’s Customer Care support. For Stella Kunjan, however, SuperCare became a lifeline. “She called our dedicated support channel on *494# and requested an interpreter for video support,” explained Joseph Cornelius, an Experience Centre Agent trained in sign language, who has been part of Vodafone’s SuperCare project since its inception. “Her complaint was that her doctor had not understood her attempts to explain her symptoms, leading to her being misdiagnosed. Due to the language barrier, the doctor had been prescribing her stomach pain medication instead of the menstrual pain relief she needed. Through a video call with her and the doctor, we effectively translated her complaints, and she received the appropriate medication.”
Stella’s story is just one of many. According to the World Health Organisation, 1.7% of Ghana’s population suffers from disabling hearing loss. Angela Mensah-Poku, Vodafone Ghana’s Director for Digital and Commercial Operations, emphasises the importance of reaching out to this often-overlooked community. “Beyond individual aspirations like education and decent living, the speech and hearing-impaired community collectively hopes for greater recognition and inclusion,” she says. She underscored the importance of technology in bridging communication gaps and fostering inclusivity.
Facing unheard challenges
“They have a really difficult time,” adds Cornelius. He has seen firsthand the challenges the speech and hearing-impaired community faces. “They are often labelled as beggars, lacking skills, or simply incapable,” he says, his voice tinged with a hint of sadness. But it is not just about societal stereotypes, he explains. It is about a voiceless minority struggling to access essential services in a world that does not speak their language.
A vision of inclusion
Rita Adiase, Vodafone Ghana’s Customer Operations and Experience Centre Manager, views SuperCare as more than just a service. She sees it as a pivotal step towards a broader vision – a Ghana where everyone, regardless of their abilities, has a place in the digital world. “As we say at Vodafone, technology is nothing without humanity. An important part of our customer service model is ensuring that we communicate with our customers in a language they can easily understand,” she elaborates. “And Vodafone is always innovating on its SuperCare platform. For instance, we introduced the Vodafone Cash bundle purchase payment option to further drive convenience and inclusion.”
Empowering the community: Fausty’s journey
Vodafone’s commitment to the hearing-impaired community goes beyond just offering services; it is about providing dedicated support that empowers individuals to thrive. Rita shares the inspiring story of Fausty, a hearing-impaired Vodafone cash agent at Ritz Junction in Accra. With Vodafone’s support, Fausty was set up as a Vodafone agent and also equipped with the knowledge and tools she needed to excel in the Mobile Money space. “Fausty’s story shows how dedicated support through technology can transform lives,” says Rita. “With the right resources and knowledge, she has expanded her business, and is now an inspiration to many in the community.”
The road ahead
The numbers speak for themselves. After launching with over 1,000 users in 2017, SuperCare’s subscriber base has significantly grown year on year, proof of its impact. As of September 2023, over 3,000 subscribers rely on the service. But for Vodafone Ghana, this is just the beginning. This October, the company’s commitment to digital inclusion shines brighter than ever as it undertakes its annual ‘Vodafone Care Month.’ The theme is ‘Team Service, Live Digital.’ This theme underscores Vodafone’s dedication to equipping all customers with innovative digital solutions. It also highlights the importance of inclusive digital tools like SuperCare for service excellence.
In a world that is increasingly digital, initiatives like SuperCare are not just essential; they can create lasting positive change. As Angela Mensah-Poku aptly puts it, “Digitalisation is not just about technology; it has to be about people.” One thing is clear as Vodafone Ghana continues its inspiring digital journey – it is leaving no one behind.