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Keys To Providing Quality Service To Customers Over 50

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Today’s older adults are living longer and healthier lives than previous generations. According to AARP, people over 50 years old now number 100 million in the United States. It is predicted that over the next decade the number of Americans over 65 will upswing by 36%. Longer and healthier lifespans often translate to a larger income than other customer sectors.

If you understand this demographic, the potential profitability is massive. Seniors are estimated to possess $7 trillion, which is 70% of the total wealth in this country. When you consider this affluence, combined with the fact that older Americans want to “age in place,” training your personnel to be sensitive to the needs of mature adults is in your best interest.

Eighty percent of seniors want to stay in their homes for as long as possible, and are interested in obtaining energy-efficiency upgrades and routine maintenance that will prove cost effective. This group also tends to be interested in the quality of products and services rather than the price. Here are some simple things to keep in mind when working with senior citizen customers:

Demonstrate Manners
Manners are very important with the over 50 crowd. Do not address them by their first names unless asked to do so. “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” and “Ms.” along with the last name are all appropriate ways of addressing a customer. “Ma’am” and “sir” are also suitable. Use standard greetings such as “Hello” or “Good Morning.”

Have Patience
Frustration with others’ lack of patience is very high on the list of complaints for mature adults. Seniors may need more time to make decisions. Set aside more time to explain the differences and benefits of what your company offers. The customer will be more confused the faster you go and may feel intimidated. Better to explain something thoroughly the first time than fielding future call-backs.

Seniors have worked hard to get to where they are in their lives. If they don’t like your quality of service, they will take their business elsewhere.
Communicate Effectively

Eighty-three percent of adults 55 and older prefer speaking to a live customer care agent. It is important with this segment of the population to provide cheerful, personalized service.

Some older adults may have difficulty hearing. Look them in the eye and speak clearly. You may need to speak a bit louder to them, as hearing deteriorates with age. Don’t mumble or turn your head away. They may find it easier to understand you if they can see your lips move. On the other hand, don’t shout.

If you aren’t certain you’ve been understood, politely ask the customer to repeat back to you the key points of what you have told them. This is more effective than asking “Do you understand?”

Matt Krewer of Town & Country Services in Tonica, IL, advises, “Sometimes with an elderly customer who has trouble understanding, you may need a ‘go-to’ person, such as a son or daughter, to help decide what services are necessary.”

Eyesight is another sense that deteriorates with age. If you have any materials that you hand out to customers, make sure the font is large enough for easy reading. Use colors that are easy to read. Keep these guidelines in mind for all printed materials.

Give the customer a printed FAQ sheet in case they have an easy question after you’re gone. Spend an extra few minutes actually showing the customer how to physically work any controls. Having a customer “do” instead of “watch” is a great learning tool.

Little Things Mean A Lot
Smile. Be cheerful. You may be the only interaction this customer has all day. Make a few conversational inquiries such as “How is your day today?” or “This weather’s been something, hasn’t it?” Something so simple can have a positive impact on someone who spends most of their time alone.

Krewer says, “We make it a top priority to be helpful when we have a senior customer who is out of service. We make sure they are at least comfortable while we wait for the necessary parts. For instance, we’ll loan them a window air conditioning unit.”

If you can be helpful to an older customer by holding a door open, carrying a bag out to their car, or bringing in the newspaper on your way to their door, do it. It may mean nothing to you, but it may be a big difference to someone who has mobility issues.

Remember, most mature adults don’t consider themselves old. When they are asked what “old” is, it’s usually 10-15 years older than they happen to be. Treat them accordingly, and know that they will relate your customer-oriented attitude and service to all of their friends looking for a considerate service provider.

Melinda Wamsley

Posted In: ACCA Now, Customer Service

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