Providing Good Customer Service


 Debbi Conrad  |    April 05, 2007
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The key to good customer service is to learn the customer’s needs and determine how to best meet those needs. That shouldn’t change when the customer is a person with physical, psychological or emotional disabilities, an elderly individual, a person who speaks a language other than your own, or a person with other special needs. Every person is different and has different needs and preferences, and their special needs must be addressed in order to provide good, fair and equal customer service.

It’s Not Discrimination to Provide Good Customer Service 

Some REALTORS® may feel uncertain about how to work with persons with disabilities and are afraid to ask questions related to a person’s disability for fear of offending the person or violating the fair housing laws. For example, when you meet an individual with a disability, you shouldn’t ignore the disability nor should you focus on it. However, asking questions to determine what auxiliary aids and services are needed does not mean that you are treating the person differently or are discriminating against them. Instead, you are trying to put everyone on a level playing field (or as close as possible) so that they may all enjoy equal real estate services and equal housing opportunities!

For example, when a trade association like the WRA offers a licensing or continuing education course, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that the course be offered in a place and in a manner that is accessible to persons with disabilities. The goal is to provide the course in an integrated setting – everyone together in the same room at the same time learning from the same instructor. That is why the course registration materials ask, “Do you have any disabilities which require special accommodation, including the provision of auxiliary aids and services? If so, please identify your special needs.”

Likewise, a real estate agent working with a person with disabilities may ask the person or family to identify any assistance that may be needed in order for the person to understand and benefit from the real estate services provided. Ask about special needs so that your business relationship will be comfortable, fair, and successful.

General Communication Tips to REMEMBER: 

  • Treat all consumers as adults and with respect and courtesy – offer to shake hands, give the person a business card, etc.
  • Speak directly to them, not through or to a person’s interpreter or translator, care giver, family member, etc.
  • Listen carefully and ask the person to repeat or write it down if you don’t understand – don’t pretend to understand.
  • Do not make assumptions about what a person can and cannot communicate, understand or do.
  • If you offer assistance, wait until the offer is accepted and listen to instructions before acting.

Communicating With the Customer 

If you are meeting at your office, which is considered a place of public accommodation under ADA, you must provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services. These aids and services must be provided at your expense if they are necessary for effective communication with persons with vision, hearing, speech or language disabilities, and where doing so does not require a fundamental alteration or undue burden. Don’t assume, but instead ask, “Are there any special services or accommodations that we can provide to make our meeting more comfortable for you?”

Written Materials 

  • Type size: Use a larger size typeface (16 pt.) or provide a magnifying glass or device.
  • E-mail: Many persons with disabilities use e-mail and the Internet. Most computers have a menu of accessibility features that can be activated and adjusted using the Control Panel.
  • Overhead presentations: This might make for an interesting, yet easily readable, initial presentation to buyers and sellers in your office.
  • Braille: Occasionally it may be necessary to provide materials in Braille. Visit dhfs.wisconsin.gov/blind.

Debbi Conrad is Director of Legal Affairs for the WRA.

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