Thomas Cook agents learn sign language to serve clients

Thomas Cook agents learn sign language to serve clients

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.”

George Duncan ends Cook career after nearly half a century

George Duncan has retired from Thomas Cook’s Westfield Stratford branch after a career spanning 47 years for the travel giant.

He credits the company with providing him with a job to travel the world and meeting his wife Christine, who works part-time at Cook in Hornchurch, London.george-duncan

“Thomas Cook has been my life. If I didn’t love the company I wouldn’t have stayed for 47 years,” he said. “And if my wife hadn’t worked in travel she would have begrudged my travelling, but we understood each other doing it.”

The majority of George’s career, 29 years, was as manager of Thomas Cook in Stratford, east London. Seven years ago, at 60, he went part-time, and last year he relocated to the new branch in Westfield shopping centre.

It’s a far cry from George’s first job at the head office in Berkeley Street, London, where he processed rail tickets before finding his niche as an agent.

He recalled: “It was all manpower rather than computers. I remember working at the Oxford Street store: the manager wore a pinstripe suit and a bowler hat. You always had to refer to him as Mr.”

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