Zack’s story: Creating welcoming Café spaces
Zack, a Café ambassador, had a surprise for one of their regular customers at the San Francisco Capital One Café. When the person, who is hard of hearing, stopped in for his cup of coffee, Zack had a new way of connecting with him: American Sign Language (ASL).
“I’d been studying American Sign Language and was able to sign a basic greeting and conversation,” Zack said. “The customer’s face lit up. He’s so excited to come in and talk to us, because he knows we can hold these conversations.”
Inspired by their customers to make Capital One Cafés a more inclusive environment for all, Zack started teaching basic ASL and Braille to their coworkers, while continuing to sharpen their own skills.
Following their passions
Zack grew up with family friends in Philadelphia who are deaf and hard of hearing. While they didn't learn much about the language at the time, it piqued their interest and reinforced their desire to learn more about diverse human experiences. This passion served them well in a 17-year career in retail, where they became known for their compassionate attitude and inclination to accommodate everyone.
As a longtime customer of Capital One, Zack decided to apply for a Café ambassador position when the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic began and they needed a new job. At the time, Cafés were operating under a “grab and go” remote policy, in which masked customers could come in for a small amount of time to pick up to-go coffee. Since Zack couldn’t always meet their coworkers in person, they sought out community through Capital One’s Business Resource Groups (BRGs) and educational resources for associates.
CapAbilities, Capital One’s BRG for associates with disabilities, caregivers and allies, refueled Zack’s passion for ASL. Through CapAbilities classes, Zack was able to learn the basics of ASL and Braille. As Cafés slowly began to re-open in 2021, they were able to practice their new skills with customers.
“It all starts with signing a simple ‘Hi! How are you?’ Customers really appreciate even that small gesture,” Zack said. “I love learning these languages because I’m able to relate to customers in a whole new way.”
Innovative and inclusive ways to serve
Zack, who has a degree in early childhood education, has always been interested in teaching. Capital One supported Zack’s passion by giving them the space to lead workshops for other associates on topics like mental health, Braille and personal pronoun usage.
For the latter, they partnered with Out Front, Capital One’s BRG for LGBTQ+ associates and allies, to present it to Cafés and Capital One leaders across the enterprise. Zack, who identifies as non-binary, was able to bring their personal experiences to the presentation. This helps leaders better connect and understand the issue.
“I’m able to not only teach someone the facts, but tell my own story,” Zack said. “It really helps people understand why these topics are important.”
For Zack, these learning opportunities all go back to finding innovative and inclusive ways to serve customers. Whether it’s respecting pronouns, learning ASL or simply remembering a customer’s name and favorite drink, Zack is using their passions to build a welcoming environment.
“That sense of community and empathy is always something that really inspires me. I found it within Capital One,” Zack said. “Bringing that back to our customers is what drives me.”