Customer service in a multigenerational world

Customer service in a multigenerational world

Published on: December 16, 2015
Author: Dharmesh Ghedia

Housing demographics are changing across the world, driven by longer lives and the increasing cost of getting onto the property ladder. In the United States 4 out of 5 households don’t fit the traditional mold of two parents and pre-college kids, with a growing number containing multiple generations, such as grandparents or boomerang children that have left, then returned home. In the UK the number of households containing three or more generations has grown by 30% over the past decade, and 15% of those aiming to move in the next 5 years expect to live in a multigenerational household.

Many companies spend a lot of time on demographically profiling their customers, but mixing the generations in the same household blurs the lines between the expectations of different age groups. For example, older consumers may share any customer service issues they are having with their millennial relatives, and consequently be encouraged to be more demanding in their expectations of the experience they receive. Additionally, when it comes to multigenerational household purchases, albeit from utilities and telecoms to grocery shopping, consumers are likely to shop around, be less loyal, and be more comfortable with technology than the remainder of their demographic profile.

So how can companies cope with this multigenerational reality? Here are four areas to focus on if you want to thrive in the future:

1. Personalize
Take the time to understand your customers, whatever their background, and design the journey around their needs. This means ensuring that you can provide the service that each group requires, tailored to their expectations. For example, older customers may want to be addressed as Mr. or Mrs., rather than by their first names, while millennials will be happier with a more laid-back, informal response. At the same time answers will need to be consistent, across every demographic, so make sure you have a centralized knowledge base in place to share information across your contact center agents and channels.

2. Be multichannel
While there is no direct correlation between age and the channels that customers want to use, the multigenerational world means that companies need to offer a full range of ways of making contact. From newer channels such as chat and social media, to more established, and traditional ones like the telephone and post, companies have to cater for all of these, link them, and provide the same superior service on every channel.

3. Build empathy
Treating every customer as an individual is vital, yet companies now receive a huge volume of queries from consumers, across every channel. The first step is to understand what customers are looking for – yet 78% of those surveyed by Eptica listed receiving a response that didn’t understand or answer their query as one of their top two frustrations. One way of helping agents with this to use linguistics to analyze the language and tone of incoming emails, social media messages and chat sessions, and then provide relevant, consistent responses that agents can further personalize to customer needs. This helps increase efficiency while building stronger relationships with consumers, driving greater loyalty.

4. Give good service to all
At a time when resources are tight, it can be tempting to  reduce the priority on certain channels and focus agents on others. This is a false economy – forcing customers to switch channels leads to frustration, and, in a multigenerational household the impact can potentially be large. Whether it is a grandparent sharing their complaint about the time taken to respond to a letter or a millennial discussing their experience of poor service when contacting a company by social media around the dinner table, the news of the bad experience is spread much more widely, potentially affecting even more people.

The holiday season, which brings together families under one roof to celebrate, gives a good insight into the multigenerational future. As everyone sits down together they will share stories about their trip to get there (transport) and what they’ve been up to, such as holidays (travel and hospitality), while watching TV and movies together (entertainment) as well as buying and giving gifts (retail). Therefore think about the potential impact and make sure your brand takes heed of this new multigenerational reality if you want to retain the loyalty of customers of every age.

Tags: Christmas, Customer experience, Customer satisfaction, Customer Service, email, emotion, empathy, Eptica, grandparent, Holiday, linguistics, Millennial, multigeneration
Categories: Contact Center, Customer Engagement, Customer Experience, Customer Service, E-commerce, Knowledge Management, Linguistics, Multichannel Customer Service, Social Media

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