Maintaining Service to Customers with Disabilities

Customer Service Training Resource
August 2, 2013 — 1,479 views  
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People with disabilities form an appreciable percentage of any population. Turning away such customers because you are not prepared to handle them gives a bad impression of your company – from a service perspective as well as a business perspective.

Proper way to Welcome Disabled Customers

Making your place of business disabled-friendly by adding wheel chair ramps, grab rails, and emergency procedures is the first step in welcoming disabled people. Treat a disabled person like you would anyone else, with respect, and talk to them with patience and politeness. Don't patronize customers with disabilities. Rather than imposing your help on them, ask if they need help. If they do, they will let you know.

There is a wide range of disabilities including sensory disabilities like speech and vision impairment, physical disabilities due to limb impairment, paralysis, and diseases like arthritis and heart conditions, mental health disability, speech impediments, and so on. Interacting with one disabled customer may not be the same as another. Some people may take longer to communicate, some may use an interpreter, some may communicate in a different manner, and some may speak normally. It is not difficult to interact with them if one is patient and has a willingness to communicate.

Understanding Disabilities and the Myths

Disabilities are not what people generally think them to be. Most disabled people can lead normal lives despite their disabilities because they have learned to adapt to their disabilities. So they are able to function as unimpeded as possible.

They don’t need your pity, but they could use easier accessibility to opportunities. Speaking to a disabled person is not usually any more difficult than speaking to any other person, and as a customer, you can expect them to have a very normal spectrum of preferences and expectations of quality.

Hiring a disabled person is not an issue either as many a times, such people tend to be more productive, and loyal than people without disabilities. Statistics show attrition is 72% lower with disabled people, which means selecting disabled people can save a lot of money in hiring and training for a business.

Interacting with Disabled Customers

Treat disabled people with as much respect you would give to any person. The focus of your communication should be on the person, not their disability. While it is possible to talk to disabled people the same way as you would with any other person, what you say to them and the words you choose can affect the communication.

Refer to their condition as a disability, not a handicap which would be inappropriate. As mentioned earlier, disabled people have learned to adapt to their condition and are not as limited as we think them to be.

Many disabilities are similar in characteristic, so do not make any assumptions or judgments before the disabled person explains their condition and their needs. Speak directly to the customer with the disability even if they are using an interpreter. Look at the customer while speaking to them, but do not make them feel uncomfortable by staring at them. Ask for permission before handling equipment used by them such as wheelchairs or crutches, and do the same before interacting with service animals such as seeing-eye dogs.

Customer Service Training Resource