Read about a branch visit from Dementia Action Alliance and how Postmaster Amit Patel supports his customers.
Creating a dementia-friendly Post Office
A few weeks ago Dementia Action Alliance volunteers visited two branches in Brighton and Hove. They looked at what’s going well in terms of accessibility and how we can improve as a business.
Over the next few weeks we’ll be sharing the advice they gave and providing resources including a branch checklist based on expert feedback.
We speak to Postmaster of Portland Road branch in Hove, Amit Patel to look at how they support all of their customers.
A family business
"My family have been running the business for nearly 45 years and we have many wonderful customers who treat us with the same respect as we treat them.
We have built a reputation of sharing time and generosity with our community, which allows our customers to open up and feel at ease in the shop."
"I insist that every customer gets a welcome from either myself or one of my staff when entering the shop and a 'thank you' on their way out - this not only gives a warmer feel but makes the customer understand that they are important to us.
I like to make each customer feel as though we have appreciated their custom and are welcome back whenever they need any form of help.
Everyone who works in the branch has a very supportive and amicable nature, and we assist those we identify as having difficulty.
Supporting vulnerable customers is important as we try to build relationships (as is the ethos of the Post Office). Not only that, but it is the right thing to do - they helped us when we were young and now we should return that help when they need it."
Quiet space and branch environment
"I have a small office in the back of the shop where customers can speak to me about their issues in private or if they need to rest. I have had a number of elderly customers who have come to me to open up about their problems - from just finding out they have cancer or their children running away to the passing away of parents etc. I like to think that I am a good listener who tries to empathise with any situation.
My staff are always on hand to open the heavy front door if they notice anyone struggling. We are planning to install an automatic door in the near future to allow better access for mobility scooters and prams and buggies."
"We have previously taken on a number of apprentices whose studies really centre on customer service. One of the most important functions of giving a good level of service is identifying and relating with the customer. If we are able to make the customer feels as though they have had a positive experience in the shop then they are more likely to return - a customer should never leave feeling frustrated or aggravated."
Becoming more accessible
"In terms of assisting those with dementia needs, we sometimes have family members who let us know how to help. For example, for one customer we keep a letter written by their daughter to give to her father whenever he comes in - he doesn't always remember why he is there.
We have some signs and arrows pointing and showing customers where things are - although I know that this could be improved and it is on the list of things to do! It would be helpful for me and my team to have a basic understanding of the condition and the problems that are faced so that we are able to identify and assist those that need it.
It is not always obvious when a customer needs help but I would like to think that we are able to make customers feel welcome and safe as we acknowledge them as they come in."
Every customer is unique
"In terms of tips for other businesses, I would always insist on acknowledging and respecting each individual that enters your business as it is those people who are going to allow your business to survive and grow."
A massive thank you to Amit and his team at Portland Road branch in Hove, and the team at St James Street branch in Brighton, who both took part in the branch visits with Dementia Action Alliance. It was clear that while adjustments to the physical environment are important, the key thing for the customers was to be able to interact with kind, friendly and helpful people in branch.
Matthew and the Dementia Action Alliance volunteers particularly wanted to thank Amit Patel for his support and curiosity in what his business could do to help people living with dementia.