Staff at Thomas Cook’s first Discovery store have learned sign language to communicate better with deaf and hard of hearing customers – and hope other branches will follow suit. Senior travel consultant Denise Hart and manager Peter Ryan at Thomas Cook’s Westfield branch in Stratford, east London, took a course, which was funded by the company. Hart came up with the idea and pitched it to her manager, who sought funding for the training.
She estimates she has 10-15 regular customers who are deaf or hearing impaired. She said: “We have a lot of deaf customers and it’s not always right for them to write down what they want: you need to be able to speak and communicate with the client. “People feel they have to ask for pen and paper, but we want to build up rapport [further]. By learning sign language we can communicate properly with clients.”
Ryan said: “We are hoping that it will be a pilot for other Discovery stores. It’s a good example of Cook’s mission to put the customer at the heart of what it does.” The pair learnt sign language gestures specific to travel and holidays. Ryan said: “We’ve been able to use our new skills with two regular customers so far – they were totally stunned!”
Kathryn Darbandi, director of retail and customer experience, said: “It’s always fantastic to see how far our colleagues will go to look after our customers.”