Training staff takes time and commitment. It is necessary to train employees so that they perform the job well, have a good understanding of health and safety and to ensure they are able to provide the best possible customer service. One of the areas to focus on is offering excellent customer support to everyone and making them have a strong disability awareness that will benefit them to understand how to provide the best service to everyone that walks through the door.
When providing disability awareness training you should aim to make your staff comfortable when serving all disabled people. They must be able to provide help without being patronising in any way, and it is important that they don’t make assumptions about the customers. Employees need to be prepared to give extra assistance but never to impose their ‘helpfulness’ to those who don’t require it. One of the most important things is to train your staff so they are fully aware of any adjustments that can be made if necessary.
When I train my new employees I focus on the following points when it comes to what they may be required to do:
- Role playing is a wonderful way of teaching staff to be able to confidently communicate with customers. We have a couple of customers who cannot understand speech very well and for them we provide written information. We have a pen and paper by the counter at all times for times like these.
- I like my employees to speak directly to the customer and not to their carer.
- Patience is always required for all customers and it’s also important to make sure customers understand everything being said to them.
- My staff know that they may be required to provide assistance such as offering an arm for support or for guidance around the store.
- Having a seat near to the counter is excellent. My employees are trained to provide seating to customers who may have to wait longer than usual, or who have many bags weighing them down.
- In some circumstances it is necessary to speak privately with customers, and you should keep their information confidential. If you have a busy shop or office make sure you have a place for your employees to take customers so that the conversation doesn’t have to be overheard.
- We use a portable ramp for our customers to use if they wish to reach our back room. If you have any portable equipment such as ramps make sure your employees are able to set it up safely, know where it is kept and how to store it safely when not in use.
We have recently worked hard on our printed information to provide materials for all of our customers. In the past we had many leaflets on our counter and we would often pop them into the carrier bags of our customers, but it dawned on me that not everyone was able to read the information. I worked with a company that helped me to create leaflets with larger font. We also changed the font so it looked a lot clearer and less flamboyant. We added some additional signs at our counter, and around the store that provided information for our customers. These signs are located at a low height so they can be read by everyone and are in large text.
Positive Service for the Entire Community
By training employees to be more aware of the needs of all of the customers we have been able to improve our business, our reputation and our revenue. Currently we are waiting to see if our planning permission for better access to the store has been accepted, and hopefully this will benefit our customers and our business further. Clear training, essential information and solutions available for multiple situations only helps to establish your organisation within your community.
One useful way to help your business provide a better service is an access audit. Highlight areas where improvement is needed and train your employees to provide brilliant customer service.