“Every contact we have with a customer influences whether or not they’ll come back. We have to be great every time or we’ll lose them.”
-Kevin Stirtz, Strategy Manager at Thomson Reuters
If you work with the public, you want to give your customers the best experience possible. Whether you have ten employees or ten thousand, your business depends on it. If you’ve been around a while, you’ve probably gotten really good at communicating with the typical customer.
But what about the customer who’s a little different? There is a whole world of communication impairments, and millions of people have them. Communicating with these customers may present a bit of a challenge. You may have to approach the interaction differently. However, if you’re prepared for anything, you’ll be able to turn those prospective customers into repeat customers who refer all their friends to you because you give them great service, every time.
Following are some tips to guide you as you strive to give all your customers a great experience:
- Respect. Do not laugh at, mock, or interrupt your customer. This is a no-brainer. You wouldn’t do this with your other customers, anyway.
- Do not finish your customer’s sentences. It may be tempting, especially if your customer seems to be having a really tough time getting the words out. Even if you know what they’re going to say, let them say it.
- Give your customer enough time to respond. Some people take a little longer to process information. Be sure you are giving your customers enough time to react to your questions or comments before repeating yourself or adding to the conversation.
- If you do not understand what the customer says, tell them. It will save a boatload of trouble from you guessing at what they want.
- Let them see your face. For some hard of hearing customers, it may be easier to have a conversation if you are facing them in good lighting.
- If your customer is having difficulty understanding you, use shorter sentences with simpler vocabulary. Sometimes you can communicate the same idea in three short sentences instead of one long sentence.
- Think about your surroundings. For customers with a head injury in their past, it can be difficult to concentrate on what someone is saying if there is a lot of movement and noise in the background.
- If you are in the position to do so, you might want to show your customer what you’re saying by neatly writing it down or having key points of your message typed out. This can be helpful to those customers for whom memory is not their strong suit.
- Use gesture and facial expression wisely. Think about what your hands are doing. Make sure that every gesture you make is meaningful and that you are not just flapping your hands around. Think about what your face is doing. Try to keep your facial expression appropriately neutral or friendly. Inappropriate gestures can distract from your message.
- Be patient. If a prospective customer feels like you’re in a hurry, they may be more likely to turn around and go straight to your competitor. Take a relaxed position and communicate your willingness to help the customer with everything they need, and your customer will be more likely to stick with you.
The key to successful communication with customers with disabilities is the same as with any other customer: put them first. Give your customers a great experience every time and they’ll come back, again and again.
If you have any questions about how your organization can improve your communication with individuals with disabilities, let us know. Contact us and we can provide you with more information, tips, and strategies in an individual consultation or group seminar.