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From Millennials to Silver Surfers – Crossing the Generation Gap with Effective Customer Management

It’s December, and therefore it’s shopping time! Everyone going in stores, no matter the generation X, Y and Z, they are all here to buy presents for each other. Although we all know it’s always challenging to find the right presents, the real challenge at this time of the year is for stores to provide a customer experience that meet the expectations of different generations.  If you are customer service experts or marketers, you also know that it’s easier said than done.  

For instance, Zara has traditionally focused on both young and mature shoppers. Their customer services had also evolved to accommodate the ways of interaction used by both generations, while a decade or more ago both generations would have had only one channel to interact with a brand, focusing on telephone calls to customer services with the associated waiting times and conversations those entailed.

Ultimately there are two to three generations that retail brands need to engage with, depending on their strategies: the fully connected Generation Y, and the more-or-less traditional Generation X and the Older Generation. Offering a customer journey that satisfies those different generations can be a challenge.

Here are 5 customer service tips that we recommend to implement for a more seamless, cross-generation customer service experience.

1: Understanding motivations

It’s no secret that great customer service should span across your business. The key to reaching different generations is by understanding what motivates them and what they like about your products, then teaching those motivations to your employees. From fashion interests, to lifestyles, to the way generations communicate with others; the better your employees understand these motivations, and the more flexible they are using both digital and traditional techniques to serve customers, the more content customers will be. Lush Cosmetics, for example, trains employees on its entire product range before they hit the shop floor, so that they can give insightful recommendations.

2: Tell me who you are and I’ll tell you what you need

Not all generations will want to be contacted in the same way. Some will want the immediacy of social media; some will happily wait for a telephone call; while others will appreciate a well-written email or letter. Different age groups have clear preferences here. Accommodating your customer service strategy to include all prospective customers’ preferred ways of interacting with your brand will go a long way to satisfy your audience. This makes a clear customer service multichannel strategy key. From monitoring social media; emails; web-chat; and even written letters, retailers can then accommodate the multichannel strategies that follow them throughout their entire journey.

3: Time management

The type of service used in customer communications is one thing, but time is just as important. Customer service experts agree that different generations will expect to be served in different timescales. For instance, the more mature and older Generation X will have less demand for digital services that rely on speed, compared to Generation Y who will expect customer service to be a real-time and near-instantaneous experience, with issues solved almost as soon as they are raised. One brand, worldwide in the consumer goods department, has understood this very well in adapting a clear digital customer service strategy for their audiences, as shown here.  

4: Make it personal

Personalisation is the one golden rule that crosses all generations, both in terms of content and communication channels. Whether a customer is used to online content tailored to their own history; or has spent decades visiting the same local store, they expect retailers to know their favourite channels when interacting with the brand, such as web chat and social media. Customer journey should be tailored to customers based on their individual profile or purchasing behaviour, not just their age bracket. A mature shopper could well be a tech-savvy social media user, and expect communications to match. True customer service means monitoring and anticipating customers’ specific needs through unification of customer interactions, instead of losing any personal touch through over-generalising.

5. Take another look at your contact centre

Sadly, regardless of their generation, the fact is that a significant number of customers are not currently satisfied. According to the Institute of Customer Service, customer satisfaction in 2015 was the lowest for five years.  This is clearly delineated by age: 25-34-year-olds are the least satisfied customers, closely followed by 18-24-year-olds, while the over-65s are the most satisfied. As we have said, this is closely tied into how retailers engage with customers. Many contact centres have shown an inability to integrate digital platforms in their traditional service, while marketing departments have not developed the expertise necessary to respond across the generations, making retailers fall behind the game in reaching these younger consumers. Therefore developing their multichannel strategies that would seamlessly integrate digital and traditional platforms to communicate with both digital-friendly customers and the more traditional ones has become critical for retailers. Data segmentation should then come optimise the customer journey according to each generation’s, and each customer’s unique behaviour.

Integrating a fully functional multichannel customer service solution that tracks the customer throughout their entire journey means that they won’t need to rely on Santa Claus for surprises, because you’ll know what they really want.