Ms. Shackelford

ADA Compliance

People with Disabilities: How is your Customer Service?

By Ellen L. Shackelford, President, Connections Access Consulting Services, LLC (CACS)

What is customer service and how do guests, customers, or patrons expect to receive it when looking for quality service? It means something is expected. People travel all the time and stay in various types of hotels/motels; ones chosen over others are from their past experiences and the quality of service given to them. Customer service should be at the top of satisfaction when it comes to evaluation and response, for it gives inside information to business owners on how to address issues their customers have stated in response to the treatment or service they have received from their visit. With this in mind it is critical to have the staff trained in providing the service all quests should have when they are temporary residence at a particular venue.

Adults with disabilities travel often and enjoy staying in hotels/motels which cater to their unique and specific needs. They are seeking exceptional customer service as all guests hope to acquire. These questions on how to assist should be no different on how to address the concerns of any other guest intent on having a comfortable and memorable stay. People with disabilities desire the same products and service as other persons and deserve to be treated as viable consumers. The customer service experience begins at the initial consultation when the reservations are made. When the reservationists doesn't give the potential guest a chance to express all their concerns over the phone at the time of making the arrangements for a room, the guest can become disgruntled.

Good customer service becomes bad customer service when the employees do not want to take ownership for his/her actions in confronting the guest in the service and accommodations they require upon their stay. Making reservations can be daunting, when the person on the other line is rushing you through the call so they may get to the next. It is critical to make sure the customer on the telephone has had the opportunity to express their needs before the reservation has been completed. Great customer service comes from creating the right attitude within the organization. It then is trickled down to potential customers, who will be able to feel the sincerity and know they will be taken care of once their reservations had been made. Customer service which is geared to star treatment, keeps customers coming back and word of mouth advertising from their experience will be passed onto others.

Upon my travels I tend to stay at five star hotels with full service. The customer service is a determining factor more than the dynamics of the makeup of the hotel/motel. One particular hotel which is my choice of repeat stay is one which offers exceptional customer service which begins at the reservation stage. The reservationists are knowledgeable of my unique needs and ask if there are additional ones they should know about to help make my stay more accommodating. This is certainly a must for people with disabilities, for each person has different levels of needs and accommodations in order to help make their experience a comfortable one. In this venue my reservations are made smoothly; questions asked are ones which will demonstrate how versed the staff is with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It is so impressive when I hear them repeat what I have requested in terms of accommodations, and if what I have asked is something which is not available the staff works diligently to provide reasonable expectations.

Once the reservation process has been completed, the staff then pass the call over to their ADA department to verify the reservation for clarity and to ask if there is any additional information needed to make the stay more enjoyable. With this type of customer service, perspective guests with disabilities have a sense of security and confidence; the experience will be memorable one, which will make the person return. Loyalty is a critical factor when a business goal is retention. When guests decide to stay at a particular hotel or motel, they want to be treated with sincerity, dignity, honesty, and compassion. It is up to the management and staff to make accommodations and assure the venue is accessible for all persons with unique needs.

When I decide to stay at any hotel or motel it is my optimal goal to assure my safety and accommodations are adequate. The price is a minimal factor when I've been thought of in the planning stages of accommodations.

Accommodations doesn't just mean whether I'm able to physically access the venue, but if my needs are being taken into account. It means all people with disabilities want the same products and services as every guest temporarily staying at a hotel or motel. Some things to consider in the planning or re-designing stages are as follows:

Removing Barriers

  1. Making sure tables, counters, desks, and checkout counters are at the ADA required height, so a person using adaptive equipment (unable to walk) or someone who is of short stature are able to reach the space comfortably.
  2. Doors are equipped with low poundage or power assisted door devices, so it is easier for someone who has limited ability or upper body function to be able to physically pull a door open.
  3. Omitting items away from a narrow space where it would hinder a wheelchair, scooter, or walker to access freely.
  4. In setting up the accommodations in rooms zoned for guests with disabilities, everything should be in reach. Consider ones who sit or who are of short stature and have a difficult time reaching items over their heads. Things should be brought down to be in reach.
  5. Shower chairs should be ones with a bench attached which extends outside the tub for ease of transferring from a wheelchair or scooter. The chair which are ones which are placed directly in the tub base with rubber feet are not safe for those who are not able to use their lower limbs upon transferring.
  6. Additional amenities to add for customer service could be generated by leaving a list of extra items on a form to be filled out by the guest and retrieved by the housekeeping staff. Example: extension cords for ones who use devises which need to be plugged in and may not be able to reach an outlet behind the bed, dresser, nightstand, or desk. Barriers are ones which make it difficult for a person who uses adaptive equipment or alternative devices for mobility, navigate freely. Removal of barriers make areas overlooked accessible and attainable for guests, so they too may be able to enjoy all the amenities offered in a venue. If these methods can not be accessible, some kind of accommodations must be made to assure the guest will receive the same customer service as other guests by making alterations to services available. Education and acquiring additional information on how to address issues of accommodations and accessibility may be obtained by visiting the Americans with Disabilities Act's web site at www.ada.gov

Quality customer service should be everyone's business. When consumers travel they expect to receive the best service possible for the revenue spent. The only concessions made is the old adage "customers are always right," they - no matter the ability - are the driving force of how the business progresses. To continue customer retention and loyalty the customer service offered is the determining factor of the industry.

Ellen Shackelford is well aware of the many challenges people with disabilities face daily. She is founder/president of Connections Access Consulting Services, LLC, and is dedicated to a service which will enhance the awareness of the unconscious injustice done to the aging population and Citizens with disabilities. She works so all will be included in social situations. Ellen’s goal is to serve as an advocate by providing education through training and disability awareness programs necessary to address the importance of inclusion in an aging society. Ms. Shackelford can be contacted at 757-827-0783 or ln@cacsllc.info Extended Bio...

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