Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Customer service

My mum’s a dead keen shopper. Often, when she feels down, she suggests we have a little ‘retail therapy’. This Saturday the weather was so appalling we drove to the local mall. Unlike the flash chainstore versions, this small suburban centre has an op shop. Op shops are Mum’s favourite.

When she first moved to the rest home, Mum would walk down to the town and go to every op shop in the street. These days she can't always get there herself but whenever I take her she loves it.

Op shops take things slowly, the staff are often elderly so less inclined to rush and most seem to have a natural affinity with their peers.
But even in op shops, things can be hard for people with dementia.
Shopping is tiring, physically and mentally.
The best shops have a chair for customers who need a rest.

Handling money is stressful. When I’m with Mum she’s visibly relieved to delegate the Eftpos process to me.

Shopping alone, Mum really struggles. One local shop recognised the problem and generously provided her with a couple of dollars in credit, letting me settle up when I went in later.

Dementia also affects decision-making. Sometimes, when Mum’s going round and round the various options, I can feel the impatience of the retail staff. So can Mum. The problem is, Mum presents so well. They think she’s just an annoying person who won’t make up her mind.

The other day, on Alzheimers Wellington’s website, I came across a fantastic resource. It’s called Understanding and Respecting Customers with Dementia - a guide for staff.

Full of useful information, it explains that people with dementia don’t always fit the stereotype. That many people who are developing dementia, or have it already, still do lots of things the rest of us do. Like shopping.
It tells you how to spot someone who’s struggling and how to help them. And it understands the importance of the chair - suggesting that when customers get tired or confused, staff might offer somewhere quieter or less distracting for them to go.

Best of all, it helped me to better understand what works and what doesn't, when Mum and I are out getting our retail fix. It’s an important staff training resource for retailers.

Here’s the link.


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