The Syosset Chamber of Commerce held their monthly meeting on Sept. 12 and featured guest speaker Ellen Eichelbaum, a dynamic speaker from the SpeakEasy Group who specializes in Corporate Gerontology. Although her talks are usually lengthy, she gave chamber members an abridged version of her lecture.
Eichelbaum is a nationally recognized speaker who makes presentations to leading national companies and organizations throughout the country. She is trained in gerontology and helps various companies identify and address their needs and responses in an aging society.
"This is the first time in history five generational families will live among us and we who are part of the 'guilty generation' are totally unprepared to handle the decisions ahead," said Eichelbaum. "Ask any real estate agent on Long Island what the first request of baby boomers considering moving up to a larger house is, and you'll find it's 'is there an extra space I can put in a kitchen or an extra room for my mother?'"
Eichelbaum spoke to those in attendance at the recent meeting specifically about how to deal with older customers in a place of business. "No matter what you do for a living, you are bound to have one older client," she said.
One of the problems, according to Eichelbaum, is the definition of "older" and "elderly". Eichelbaum explained that companies find problems when dealing with older clients in the business world when they group people. Many companies group the elderly into a 55+ category - something that angers 55-year-olds who don't consider themselves "elderly" and the company winds up losing potential customers. "A 55-year-old 75-year-old and 95-year-old are all so different - they should not be grouped together," she said.
Eichelbaum gathered most of her information by conducting senior focus groups at which she received feedback from the seniors about what they like and don't like in a business relationship and in their personal lives.
"At many companies, let's say at a bank for example, if an elderly person walks in with their older child, the teller will usually talk to the child about their parents affairs and speak about their parent in the third person as if they are not even there," said Eichelbaum. "You should speak directly to the senior or parent. Don't ignore them."
According to Eichelbaum, an older client will refer a certain business to their friends and family based on how nice and well-kept a sales representative is rather than on the actual company. "Most times it isn't the message, but the messenger," said Eichelbaum. "It can be a person's hands, dirt under their fingernails or what someone is wearing that influences older people."
Eichelbaum offered chamber members some tips on dealing with the elderly population. "When making brochures for your business, try and avoid glossy paper. Also, keep the information simple and use bullets to explain and emphasize main points. Also, try and keep the information on one sheet," she said. " Don't call them dear, or honey. Do call them by their last name unless they say otherwise. Also, don't ask a lot of personal questions right away - you never know what they are dealing with."
According to Eichelbaum, listening skills are very important. "Establishing trust and ethics is very important right from the start. Your body language can give away your true feelings," she said.
Time ran out on Eichelbaum at the meeting and since chamber members were very intrigued by the information that she had presented, she was invited back by the chamber to continue her talk at a future date.
For more information about Eichelbaum and her expertise, please visit www.speakeasygroup.com or call her at 631-754-6666