I was at a car dealership in San Diego, CA a while back and I encountered an elderly man who was wandering around. I asked him if he needed any assistance and he said he was looking for the service department to pick up his vehicle. The service department was at the other far end of this huge dealership, so I took his hand and led him to it.
When we got there, one of the service people came out from behind the counter and greeted this man like he was his father...or granddad. It was wonderful to see this older man smiling and delighted to be treated with such compassion. In a few minutes, he was sitting comfortably in a chair with a cup of coffee and reading a magazine as he waited for his car.
Wow, I thought--this service department really knows how to give special treatment to seniors, but I bet they would do the same for every customer. You’ll frequently hear advice about millennials--how to hire them, sell to them and treat them as customers. However, you don’t often read or hear about how to accommodate seniors, who are 65 and older. Currently, there are more Americans in this age group than at any other time in the history of the United States.
According to U.S. Census Bureau information, they account for 14.5 percent of the total population. The number of seniors grew from 44.7 million in 2013 to 46.2 million just one year later. By 2060, it is projected that one in four U.S. residents will be in this age group.
By accommodating seniors who visit your dealership or bring their cars to your service department for repairs and maintenance, you’ll not only gain their loyalty, but they’ll likely tell their family and friends about the excellent customer service they received.
Take the time to talk to your staff about how to treat seniors at your workplace. These tips below can also apply to all customers, but are designed to make your senior clients comfortable, content and coming back.
Start off right
A friendly greeting and welcoming smile go a long way when customers first walk through the door. Make sure to use Mr., Mrs. or Ms. when addressing them as well as Sir or Ma’am. It’s a sign of respect and seniors will appreciate it. They were brought up in an age where this means more than you might realize, so being friendly and greeting them warmly will go a long way.
Be extra patient
Many seniors get frustrated when the younger generation has little patience. Remind employees to be extra patient with elderly customers, especially if they have questions. Avoid using a tone that could be considered condescending, because no one likes to be talked down to.
Avoid industry jargon
Although we use it daily in the service department, company jargon can be confusing for customers. Use regular every-day language to explain things, especially to seniors, to ensure they understand and avoid terms they might not understand. I would bet that the average senior does not know the difference between an O.E. vs. aftermarket part, so clarify and simplify any information about their car that you are sharing with them.
Take it slow
We’re all busy and spend most of the day rushing around, but when you’re dealing with elderly customers, take your time talking to them. That doesn’t necessarily mean talk slowly, just be attentive and respectful. You might also want to speak clearly and talk a little louder.
Write things down
By writing things down, it helps customers remember what you are saying. Consider keeping paper and a pen or pencil available in case they want to take notes. It may be helpful to have a FAQ sheet to hand out in case they have questions after leaving.
Go the extra mile
Remind your staff to always be polite. That might mean opening the door for elderly customers or offering to carry things to and from their vehicles. That extra touch helps make a senior feel special.
Remember, you’ll be part of the senior citizen club one day too, so operate your business by The Golden Rule: Treat others how you want to be treated.
A professional writer and editor for more than 20 years who specializes in creating content for a wide range of businesses and industries including automotive, engineering and healthand wellness.