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Don’t Bite the Hands that Feed – Your Customers Deserve Better

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It has been a tough couple of years out on the high street. We are still managing to survive yet we have had to make some changes into how we operate. Cutting back on spending has been our focus along with improving our sales through marketing, excellent customer service and reliable products. One of the ways we have managed to keep trading while others around us have closed is by being flexible and making cutbacks, such as moving into a cheaper property.

Moving to a smaller shop was never going to be easy for us but it was a step we needed to make in order to keep our doors open. The reduced cost in utility bills and rent have meant we could afford to cut back on our prices to keep serving the customers excellent quality goods while they also struggle to keep their heads above water. It’s a war out on the high street but one that can be won with careful planning and even more careful spending.

The Doorway Caused Instant Problems

Sadly when we moved to the new premises we noticed that there were some problems that needed to be fixed right away. The door to the shop was a huge problem as it was small with a step up to it. We serve items to everyone and there is no way we want to turn anyone away from our store so we had to address the issue of access so that all our customers, new and old, would be able to enter and exit the shop without any problems. The door was a problem and so we set about sorting it out right away.

We contacted some access consultants and spoke to our landlord. Thankfully the agent was more than willing to help us to make improvements. We were given permission to replace the door and add a small ramp to the exterior of the property. The landlord even chipped in with some of the costs which was not something that we were expecting to happen.

Why go to so much Trouble?

Why did we go to the trouble of sorting out the access? You may think we were silly spending our money that we didn’t need to while making cutbacks everywhere else. When you think about it carefully it does make perfect sense. We make our living by selling to the public. Our product range includes items for men and women of all ages, so we have to be able to welcome men and women into our store. Without them we can’t make sales, which would result in us having to close down and only focus on online sales.

The new doorway and ramp now meant that everyone had the ability to access our store. People that use wheelchairs, mobility scooters, mums with pushchairs and prams and anyone else who might have problems with a small door and a step can now come and go without any problems. The door only needs a slight nudge for it to then open on its own, meaning it’s easy for everyone to open. Shoppers overloaded with bags don’t have to battle with the door anymore!

Your Customers are Your Lifeline

Providing excellent customer service includes welcoming people from all walks of life into your shop. Investing in making your property more accessible makes perfect sense. We saw an increase in footfall immediately and all of our old customers who couldn’t access our new shop were thrilled that we went to the effort to welcome them in. A simple change to the entrance can result in a dramatic rise in sales, something worth considering I think you’ll agree.

Aki Hashimoto specialises in writing, providing DDA Audit and disabled access news to businesses in the UK. Find out more by following @EqualityAct2010 on Twitter.

 

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A Sweet Lesson on Patience

A NYC Taxi driver wrote:

I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes I honked again. Since this was going to be my last ride of my shift I thought about just driving away, but instead I put the car in park and walked up to the door and knocked.. ‘Just a minute’, answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.

After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940’s movie.

By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets.

There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard
box filled with photos and glassware.

‘Would you carry my bag out to the car?’ she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman.

She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb.

She kept thanking me for my kindness. ‘It’s nothing’, I told her.. ‘I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother to be treated.’

‘Oh, you’re such a good boy, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and then asked, ‘Could you drive
through downtown?’

‘It’s not the shortest way,’ I answered quickly..

‘Oh, I don’t mind,’ she said. ‘I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.

I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. ‘I don’t have any family left,’ she continued in a soft voice..’The doctor says I don’t have very long.’ I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.

‘What route would you like me to take?’ I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator.

We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.

Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, ‘I’m tired.Let’s go now’.
We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico.

Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move.
They must have been expecting her.

I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

‘How much do I owe you?’ She asked, reaching into her purse.

‘Nothing,’ I said

‘You have to make a living,’ she answered.

‘There are other passengers,’ I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug.She held onto me tightly.

‘You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,’ she said. ‘Thank you.’

I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light.. Behind me, a door shut.It was the sound of the closing of a life..

I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day,I could hardly talk.What if that woman had gotten an angry driver,or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life.

We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments.

But great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

 

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How Accessible is YOUR Business?

Accessibility is a huge issue in many parts of the world. Even in countries that have accessibility legislation, it’s not uncommon for stores and restaurants to pay lip service to those rules, but to still have an establishment that is uninviting to those with mobility affecting disabilities.

In some cases, the problems are difficult to solve – especially if your business is housed in a very old building where automatic sliding doors and wheelchair accessible ramps are too difficult to fit, but even small changes such as an automatic door opener attached to an existing door can make a big difference.

Getting around in a wheelchair is tough enough, without having to worry about navigating cramped malls or stores, but if you’re serious about attracting disabled customers, there are some things that you can do.

Plan your layout carefully

Restaurant owners would do well to leave plenty of space around one or two tables near the front of the establishment. Those tables could then be used by those with wheelchairs, or those who have brought a child in a pram or a buggy. This will make those customers far more comfortable than they would be if they had to navigate their chair through a maze of tables to get to a booth at the back.

Wide aisles in shops serve a similar function. It’s not uncommon for customers with mobility issues to enjoy easy access to the front of the store, thanks to ramps, hand rails, and automatic sliding doors, only to find themselves unable to move inside thanks to promotional displays, narrow aisles, and stock-trays blocking their way.

Offer assistance

If your business is small, and you don’t have much room for tables or displays, then it’s up to you as a shop owner to be pro-active. You should offer assistance to any customer that appears to be struggling – whether they’re in a wheelchair or not. An elderly customer may be unable to get a heavy item down from a high shelf safely, and even someone who looks perfectly healthy could have an invisible disability that prevents them from being able to bend down, or to pick up a small item. Don’t judge people based on how they look – ask them if they need a hand.

Invest in access

There’s more to accessibility than just automatic sliding doors and automatic door openers, but those things are a good start. If you’re committed to accessibility, then try to find out what’s most important in your area, and stay up to date with accessibility news.

For example, recent research has found that fluorescent light bulbs are a common cause of migraines. If you’re able to replace your light bulbs with ones that aren’t likely to trigger attacks, then that would help migraine sufferers avoid attacks. Other small changes that would help a lot of people include paying more attention to the scents and cleaning materials that you use. Many people suffer from asthma attacks because of the over-use of sprays and perfumes, especially in department stores and chemists. Train your staff not to spray samples on people when there are a lot of customers nearby, and you could save innocent passers-by a lot of trouble.

Those changes may sound minor, but every little helps!

This article was written by Crispin Jones on behalf of Automatic Access. Crispin runs a small business from home and is interested in the issues he may face in the future should he choose to expand.

 

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