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Check Instructions with Elderly Customers

Posted by: Today's Tip Contributor on July 13, 2011

Don’t forget that the elderly are an increasingly important target market. And don’t forget that the elderly forget more than younger people do. Researchers at the University of Michigan and University of Iowa point out that for the most part, your elderly customers bear a risk of not following instructions to correctly use products they purchase.

Here are tips to reduce the risk:

1. For products popular with seniors, have large typeface instruction sheets available and offer them to such customers.

2. Tell the elderly consumer what to do, not what not to do. Researchers find that the elderly have a dangerous tendency to misremember. They forget the "not" part, especially after time has passed. In one study, some older adults were told a number of times—with emphasis—that a certain advertising claim was not true. Paradoxically, this repetition and emphasis made these people more likely to remember the advertising claim as true three days later than did an equivalent group of older adults who hadn’t been told about the misleading claim earlier.

3. To the degree that you have time, deliver the message in different ways. Tell the elderly customer the product-usage instructions. Demonstrate your points with gestures or even a sample of usage. Then check for understanding by encouraging the customer to ask you questions. In doing this, be sure to honor the customer’s dignity. If the customer seems confused or embarrassed, let them know that you and others in the store will be available later.

Bruce D. Sanders
Consulting psychologist
Vacaville, Calif.

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