The generation game: how does age affect our customer service expectations?

There is hot debate around generalising sections of society by age. In some respects, the views of a collective can’t possibly be considered definitive because of the year the group was born. However, age provides a useful and effective way of segmenting people. This allows businesses to communicate with groups in a more targeted, personalised manner.

Grouping people by age gives us an insight into societal changes and therefore future trends. Younger people experience and view the world in a different way to older generations, and thus can provide useful insight into how businesses must adapt to meet these new needs.

So how do different generations view customer service?

The digital era and its impact on consumers

Generation Z have never known a world without the internet, therefore the way that those under 24 have experienced life is vastly different to those in any other generation.

The rise of technology has practically regenerated every aspect of modern living. The way we work, communicate and shop is completely affected by tech. The entertainment industry has been completely revolutionised, and technology has enabled us to make huge medical advancements. For every positive advancement, there has been a negative ramification. People are becoming more detached and wary of the airbrushed, disconnected world around them. We’re now seeing consumers seek tangible, real-life experiences as an antidote to the overwhelming digital landscape.

This has led to the Experience Economy growing in prominence. People are seeking great experiences over material possessions. They’re choosing workplaces with a wellbeing focus over large pay packets. Consumers are buying into a brand, not just a product or service.

How can businesses respond to the Experience Economy?

Businesses must now compete according to a different set of rules. Our research shows customer service is overtaking product features, availability and payment terms as the most important factor when making a business decision.

This is because purchasers value a good overall experience – and customer service helps to provide this. Businesses must demonstrate they genuinely care about their customers in order to secure customer loyalty. According to the Harvard Business Review, 64% of consumers have a more trusted relationship with a brand who they share values with. Businesses are not a faceless entity any more – they are judged according to the same principles as people.

At this stage, every business should have a strong brand in place. A brand is not just a logo and a tagline – it’s a business persona and defines everything a business says or does. It’s a set of behaviours and values that enables a business to be viewed as a breathing, evolving entity. A brand helps businesses communicate key messages effectively to consumers, thus matching a customer’s values to a relevant brand. Consumers are finding brands digitally via social media and online recommendations. Businesses must make sure they’re visible by making the most of their presence on these channels, and showcasing their tone of voice, values and personality clearly.

Age changes our customer service expectations

Younger consumers want to see a rise in technology and automation, right? Wrong.

Those aged between 18-24 actually think personal, human connections are most important when it comes to customer service.

  • Access to good sales and post-sales people is very important to 85% of 18-24 year olds, compared to just 60% of those aged 25 and over
  • A personal relationship with a vendor is very important to 85% of 18-24 year olds, compared to 57% of those aged 25 and over
  • Positivity and enthusiasm of sales staff is a critical element of customer service for 38% of 18-24 year olds, compared to 19% of those aged 25 and over
  • Empathy and emotion intelligence is a critical element of customer service for 23% of 18-24 year olds, compared to just 14% of those aged 25 and over.

It’s true, however, that those aged 18-24 are the ages least likely to communicate in person. It seems this group values digital communication with a personal touch.

Just 7% of people aged under 45 preferred all person interactions. Older generations are more comfortable dealing with humans – no surprise, really, given that their experience of the world has not been digital-centric.

What level of customer service is acceptable?

Our research suggests under 65s expect a much higher standard of service. Just 10% say over three quarters of business purchases provide a high level of customer service. This is a huge difference compared to the 57% of those 65 and over who felt the majority of their business transactions provided high customer service. In fact, 29% of them said they’d never received customer service below their expectations!

So what does that tell us? Most likely, consumers in the older age bracket are easier to please. They expect a business to provide them with a product / service, and answer queries presented to their customer service team.

Younger generations expect much more. The business landscape is particularly competitive, and customers know this. Younger purchasers expect businesses to work harder to earn their custom. They want information available at the click of a button, queries answered instantly and exclusive offers to reward them for their loyalty. Businesses must up their game and deliver outstanding customer service to meet customer expectation across the board.

Which age groups are ready for digitalised customer service?

47% of those aged 18-54 would be more likely to choose a business with a digitalised offering, compared to just 21% of those aged 54 and over. In fact, 45% of those aged 54 and over would be actively less likely to choose a business that digitalised its customer service offering.

This is no doubt due to how comfortable the younger generations are with technology. Older people fear making mistakes, and prefer to speak to a real human to help them address queries. Our survey shows that, across all ages, speed / accuracy / ease were of high importance. Perhaps, for those less used to technology, it appears easier and quicker to speak to a person than to use digitalised customer service.

To chat to us about all things customer service, get in touch with the team!

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