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Seniors have both buying power and experience

Jul 25, 2013 - By Susan Jerke

Question -- "Do you have any advice for working with senior citizen customers?"

-- Ben, Sundance

Answer -- My 80-year-old mother recently decided she was ready to purchase a new ultra-book computer and smartphone. She actually was ready to give up her old dial-up service and get wireless Internet, and was excited to share photos and chat with her children and grandchildren.

Like many new customers, she approached the sales counter in a store and asked for assistance. The young man brushed her off and asked if she thought she would be able to learn how to use a modern phone.

Without another word, she walked away from the counter, shaking her head in disgust and anger.

My mother said, "Just because my hair is gray and I have a few wrinkles, it does not mean my mind is feeble. I was ready to make a substantial purchase, but I will not shop where I am not respected."

In your business, keep in mind that your customers might have their peculiarities. They may be elderly or they may be physically challenged, but they typically are serious and very careful about how they spend their money.

Take extra time to acknowledge their wisdom and experience, and explain the details and advantages of the product with care.

When any client enters a business, it is the owner's job to assess their needs and help meet their needs with due respect, courtesy and helpfulness:

- The entrance and walkways should be accessible.

- Signage should be clear.

- Have comfortable seating available.

- Speak with a clear voice, but don't shout or treat the person like a child.

- Also, make sure your philosophy and attitude is communicated with every staff member so customer service is always impeccable.

Remember, senior citizen customers bring both buying power and purchasing experience to the table.

More than 50 percent of the total United States discretionary income is controlled by those age 50 years and older. By 2030, there will be twice as many people age 85 and older.

My advice for every customer -- young or old -- is that business owners should give them full attention. Greet them courteously, treat them well, and wish them well.

Once you win over their hearts, they will become permanent, loyal customers.

A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments is available at http://www.wyomingentrepreneur.typepad.com/blog/.

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A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.

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Susan Jerke is the regional director of WyomingEntrepreneru,Biz

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The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, email wsbdc@uwyo.edu or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY 82071-3922.

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