Disabled Customers Find Great Service in the Country
Nothing beats a country store that believes in old fashioned southern hospitality to graciously meet the needs of their disabled customers.
We’ve been driving out to A.W. Peterson Gun Store and Museum for a few decades for repairs and fresh air. Hunters, outdoor men, law enforcement, veterans, cowboys, and collectors have been going to this small country business for generations. Mr. Baker opened the 118-year-old business in Mount Dora in 1953. We were told that parts of the old pecky cypress building are from the 1890s.
While the handicap ramp and sand parking lot might not meet the current code, it is sturdy and meets the needs of most disabled customers. Inside the store, the well-worn wooden floors are smooth and the aisles are all wide enough for disabled customers to easily maneuver a wheelchair or scooter. It’s been a few years since my last visit, but this time, I noticed that the aisles are now clear of any protrusions, making it comfortable for disabled customers with limited visibility.
The store is a comfortable place to shop or just to just check out all of the old hunting trophies and vintage collectibles. I always appreciate a store with plenty of places to sit. Many times disabled customers might want to sit for a few minutes and relax before continuing shopping. We often forget how many people living with a disability have limited stamina or muscle strength.
I took advantage of the porch chairs to work on “sit” training with our service dog, Bella. She was our daughters Deaf Alert dog. Since our daughter has been in boarding school for the past 3 years, Bella has become a lazy pet. We spent 20 minutes sitting on the porch without her moving to acknowledge people who walked in and out of the store. She remembered. Disabled customers with service dogs are welcome in Peterson’s. I brought in Bella, without a vest, and all I heard was “what a pretty dog.”
The best part about A.W. Peterson’s gunsmith, is that he is honest and if he can fix it while you wait, he will. My husband brought a jammed French collectible firearm to a Big Box sports store in Lake Mary. After a two week wait, he was charged $69.00 and told that they couldn’t fix the problem. The gunsmith at Petersons, spent some time examining it and discovered that there was old lint compacted in the barrel. He charged $30 and spent less than 30 minutes making the repair. Nothing beats a great customer service experience, except a great customer service experience with a trip to the country.
Drive Disabled Customer Loyalty By Serving Their Needs
With sales projections showing that 70% of all sales will be conducted online, disabled consumer loyalty is more important than ever before. The senior 50+ and disabled market segments have tremendous spending power. People don’t leave their homes just to buy a product. They go to businesses to enjoy the experience.
At the beginning of the 21st century, those aged 65 or over made up five per cent of the population, in 20 years’ time, this proportion will rise to around 18 million, according to the Office of National Statistics.
Across the globe the number of those aged over 60 will nearly triple by 2050, rising to 2.4 billion, up from 894 million in 2010.
Even though the ADA, Americans With Disabilities Act as the law for all business facilities, there are many other little things that can be done to increase the customer experience. Happy customers tell their friends. Unhappy customers post negative on-line reviews and don’t return.
As business people, we all know that it is harder to get a new customer off the street than it is to make your customer a repeat customer. A disability-friendly business is a profitable business!
If a senior or disabled customer feels welcome, they will stay longer, spend more, and are more likely to become a repeat customer.
Do you know that less than 5% of disabled consumers use a wheel on a regular basis?
You cannot always tell just by looking at a person if they have a disability.
Customers with limited mobility, heart conditions, lung conditions and other medical conditions appreciate the use of a motorized shopping cart.
A comfortable shopping experience increases the time spent in your store and ultimately increases total sales.
Do you know that the combination of bad in-store customer service experiences and the ease of accessible websites for on-line shopping, an increasing number of senior and disabled consumers are spending their money from home?
People enjoy a friendly retail experience. Shopping is not about products. It’s about finding a solution and feeling good. A disability friendly retail business will gain market share.
Customer Service Tips for Disabled and Senior Customers
WELCOME ALL GUESTS
Speak directly to each customer and make eye contact.
You rarely know who is living with a disability just by looking at them. Many disabilities are invisible.
Only 5% of the disabled population use a wheelchair on a regular basis.
If a guest walks in and then uses the electronic cart, don’t judge them. Heart conditions and many other conditions cause fatigue.
A comfortable customer will shop longer and spend more.
Disabled Consumers love to shop locally.
Not every disability is visible, nor is every disability as severe as it might appear.
It’s OK to ask “Is there anything we can do to make your shopping more convenient?”
Offer specialized help to any customer who asks.
No matter how minor the request, make sure your employees are aware that some requests are unusual.
If a disabled customer makes an unusual request, as long as the request is safe for everyone, politely fulfill it.
Always ask first before automatically helping a disabled customer.
Strive for positive feedback from your disabled customers.
Staff should be alert and helpful to all customers.
Train staff to understand the importance of treating all customers with the same amount of respect and courtesy.
If a member of staff knows sign language, let the rest of the staff know.
Trainemployees to speak directly to a hearing-impaired person, not to their companion. They should speak clearly, not loudly.
Train employees to speak directly to any disabled customer, not to their companion.
Freezer and cooler doors should stay open until manually closed.
Make sure that nothing protrudes into pathways.
Appropriately space displays of merchandise for wheelchairs to maneuver through.
A cluttered store is an uncomfortable store.
People buy more when merchandise is easy to see and reach.
Having excessive merchandise does not mean that consumers are buying more.
A comfortable shopping experience increases total sales per consumer.
Avoiding leaving unattended stacks of inventory in the aisle. Keep aisle clutter free.
If removal of a barrier is not “readily achievable,” are the goods, services, etc. made available through alternative methods? Use high-contrast colored flooring in traffic areas, such as aisle.
Provide large changing rooms with seats and appropriate level clothes hooks for wheelchair access in clothing departments. Many changing rooms do not meet ADA Code.
Checkered tiles or patterns can help a person with visual impairments find their way through a dark or complex store.
Use different color walls or patterned flooring to delineate different departments.
Different textures of carpet and flooring for help with direction and wayfinding.
Disabled Consumers love to shop locally.
Add a note on your Facebook or Website welcoming “Customers with disabilities – contact us if you need any special assistance.
Make the company’s Website user-friendly to visitors with disabilities.
Disability-friendly businesses understand the tremendous spending power of this consumer segment and do everything in their power to welcome disabled customers to their business. This list is just a beginning. Consider getting a detailed ADA Inspection and Accessibility Survey with a detail report. Always remember that if you treat the disabled community well, you will have customers for life.