Days out and the magic that makes a difference.
Days out, whats important to you?
Days out make memories for a family. What is the one thing that makes a trip worthwhile? How did the day out make you feel? What do you remember most when you go home?
I know that for me it is the small things that make a difference and it is usually to do with feeling welcomed. The smile at the reception when I go in after having had a tricky journey and not being able to park near the entrance as the places were all full. Or after getting lost and the sat nav told me that “you have arrived at your destination.” I know only too well that the country lane with a couple of houses on either side was not where I had hoped to end up.
That little effort goes a long way
A smile really makes a difference. To be greeted by a friendly and confident member of staff who is not put off by 6 children plus an electric wheelchair makes all the difference.
A few words like “is there anything I can do to help?” is like music to the ears. What hits me is that this does not happen enough. In fact as it is quite rare it is actually not just music to my ears but a symphony playing at the Royal Albert Hall. Sometimes the shock of someone asking me takes me aback and I need a few minutes to compose myself to answer. I could say “oh no I am fine thanks” as that is rather British but actually instead I say “oh thank you, that is great. Not at the moment but I will get back to you if I do!” In return I give the person a big smile. They smile back and although the whole interaction only took less than 30 seconds it has given me a spark, some zest, a new lease of life that helps makes the trip now worthwhile and sets me in the right frame of mind for a memorable day out.
Supporting people to have memorable days out.
It takes confidence to approach an individual who has a disability, especially if there is a sensory loss involved. Our approach, our facial expressions, tones of voice and words we use are important in supporting someone to feel respected, welcomed and heard.
Our body language specialist Karen Hickton has listed below some useful techniques to use which are easy to learn and very easy to apply. Remember that days out for some people take extra effort, extra planning, extra skills, extra management so if you go that extra mile you can diffuse some of that stress very quickly.
Our non verbal language is speaking all the time. It is conveying in actions our thoughts at that time. Sometimes these messages can be confusing, we can be unclear with our intentions and our actions can be misinterpreted.
Below I have written ten easy to use but key actions that can help you approach with open professionalism. Be warm and friendly from the moment you approach to closing the conversation down. If your intention is to create and leave a great lasting impression then you will achieve this, and make a huge difference.
Make those days out welcoming…
- When approaching a person who is disabled or their family, friends or carers; approach them with a warm, soft and friendly face. A smile helps them feel safer and more relaxed and this takes only a second of your time. This may sound like an obvious one but I have recently experienced a number of occasions where this hasn’t happened and I have personally felt un welcomed. Research shows that we remember someone more if they smile at us because of how it makes us feel.
- Eye contact is very important even if the individual doesn’t or can not return this connecting gesture. Eye contact with the family or those with them, is also important and very valuable in building a brief but helpful relationship. *Please be aware of cultural sensitivities here.
- Keep your voice tone mid range if possible, speak to the individual with the disability in a friendly and calm tone not a high pitched one. Be clear with your words and be direct to the person you are talking too. “Hi, is there anything I can do to help?” Keep the warmth in your words and your eye contact gentle, don’t talk and scan the environment at the same time. This action can be an unconscious one if we become uncomfortable with a situation and we don’t want to be in it. We can disengage from the other person without thinking, this is something they will pick up on so be aware of avoiding this.
- Don’t talk over the person who has the disability. A disability does not necessarily mean they are unable to make informed choices and speak for themselves. Number one rule…don’t make assumptions.
- Keep your body language open and facing the people you are talking to, if your feet are going one way and your upper body another, this looks like you’re only half present and you want to be gone.
- Don’t be afraid to ask (appropriate) questions where the answers will help you assist someone. Ask them confidently and if you come across a question you don’t know how to answer, take it to a colleague.
- Have at hand knowledge of your policies or extra support / facilities that your company or visitor centre / attraction has. Do you provide facilities that makes things easier then please do share them with clear instruction or directions.
- If you don’t understand something that is being said by an individual confidently ask them to repeat it, write it down or point it out. Is the environment very noisy and overcrowded? Is communication difficult? Consider inviting them to a quieter place where you can communicate clearer.
- End on a positive note such as; “enjoy the rest of your day” or “If there’s anything else we can help you with just find one of us.”
There’s nothing in that list you probably didn’t already know because this is baseline customer service but many people who live with a disability or families and carers rarely take for granted someone taking the initiative to come over and offer their support.
Be genuine, be respectful, be yourself.