As we move into the holiday season, many of us will soon be relating with older members of our families (if we don’t already). In the service industry, we need to be prepared to relate with older people year round. How can we provide the best customer service to our older customers?
Look at servicing an older customer’s home as an opportunity to connect with another human being. You might be the only visitor this person has had all week or in several weeks. Rather than looking at dealing with older customers as a burden, look at it as an opportunity to cherish the fact that you get to be a special person in that customer’s life.
Ask the person questions that will open up the reality of life in his or her home and that will get to the root of his or her major concerns. Ask how long he or she has lived in the home—it may be a long time, and important information can come from asking this question, such as how engaged he or she might be in family life. Customers might be making decisions not only for themselves, but also for family.
I once had an older fellow I was working with put in a $25,000 heating system for one reason: he didn’t want his kids to have to deal with it when they took over the house. This is the kind of thing you’ll learn when you ask the right kind of questions and listen with the intent to understand. As long as you do this with an element of care, you’re going to learn amazing information about this person who’s going to guide you in your work.
When you’re beginning the work, take that extra step to accommodate the person’s mobility. Do things such as taking pictures of the site if he or she cannot move into the area in which you’re going to be working. Tailor each visit to the customer without making assumptions.
Be aware that when you’re getting into your 70s, 80s and even 90s, many of the people who once cared for you are gone. It’s a stark reality, but be mindful of this as a service provider. I took a class a few years ago about mental health, and the number one complaint of older people was that there is nobody around to listen. They felt like they were not being heard anymore.
Cherish the position you’re in and again, take it as a chance to care about somebody. Let the person feel fulfilled. Be patient, be kind, and you’ll eliminate other issues that could arise.