The Multi-Generational Guide to CX

Customer experience (CX) strategies often focus on effectiveness and ease. Far fewer focus on how customers feel.

In crowded markets though, where customers can compare your business against competitors with a swipe and click, creating positive emotional experiences is one of the most effective ways to drive a competitive advantage.

Before you can create an emotional bond with your customers, however, it's important to understand the generational differences in consumer behavior.

Research by NewVoiceMedia reveals just how differently Generation Z (customers aged 16-24), Millennials (25-34), Generation X (35-54) and Baby Boomers (55+) feel about some of the most important customer service issues businesses face today.

When asked to choose their preferred method of communication with businesses, just slightly less than half (48 percent) of all respondents selected calls. The next most selected channel was email with just 24 percent. Interestingly, even as the world's first true digital natives, Generation Z had the same proportion of respondents selecting calls as Baby Boomers (both 57 percent).

It's a similar story for the communication channel customers believe will get their problem solved the quickest. Overall, 55 percent of respondents selected calls, 12 percent selected email, and newer, more fashionable channels such as Facebook and webchat were selected by only 9 percent and 7 percent of respondents respectively.

Although a higher proportion of Baby Boomers (70 percent) picked calls, every generation surveyed thought there is no better channel than the phone for getting a problem solved quickly.

Nearly half (49 percent) of Generation Z respondents said they are likely to be put off calling businesses if they can't speak to a real person straight away. Despite growing up with connected devices as a part of everyday life, this was the highest proportion of all the generations surveyed, demonstrating that when things get emotional or complex, the easiest way to solve a customer issue remains a phone call.

Millennials hate navigating multiple IVR menus more than any other generation. Unsurprisingly, customers of all ages dislike being put on hold, having to repeat information to multiple agents, and the time it takes to sort problems by a similar proportion.

Because these customer service peeves are universal, businesses that want to compete on CX would do well to invest in ways to bridge the conversation gap from digital interactions to voice, and back, in real time. Ensuring your contact center is optimized with intelligent call routing and easy access to customer interaction data can help your service agents orchestrate conversations that flow without frustration, wherever and whenever customers want, without the need to repeat themselves.

Forging Emotional Connections with Customers

With life busier than ever for many young professionals, 50 percent of Millennials cite being able to contact a company through any channel as the main bridge that connects them emotionally to brands. By comparison, nearly half (48 percent) of all Baby Boomers believe being connected to a highly knowledgeable and empathetic customer service agent is the key to making positive emotional connections—the highest among the generations surveyed.

Finding shopping experiences exciting and speaking to a customer service agent that offers a personalized experience is more important to Generation Z than any other demographic. As a result, making the effort to understand who people from this age group are, what they want, and the history they share with your company is crucial.

When faced with poor service, Millennials and Generation Z are almost twice as likely to post reviews online or complain on social media than Generation X or Baby Boomers. Many customers only complain on social media after failing to solve their problem elsewhere. Putting younger customers on hold, forcing them through IVR menus, and delivering a poor contact center experience is, therefore, one of the quickest ways to motivate them to vent their frustration online. Posted on an open forum, where the whole world can see, the damage inflicted by bad reviews and social media complaints carries far and wide.

Of all the customer age groups, Generation X and Baby Boomers are the most likely to never use the offending company again after receiving poor service. Generation Z is the most likely to tell friends or colleagues about companies with which they did not enjoy doing business.

Tellingly, across all the age groups surveyed, only 7 percent of respondents indicated they wouldn't do anything if they thought a business provided them with poor service.

The Benefits of Delivering Good Customer Service

Nearly three-quarters of Baby Boomers (72 percent) would recommend a business to others after receiving good service. Thanks to their wide network of friends, family, and peers, meeting the expectation of customers over the age of 55 is a great way to generate word-of-mouth recommendations for your product or service. Equally, more than half of Millennials (54 percent) said they would spend more money with that business. And crucially, across every generation, 65 percent of customers indicated they would be more loyal to businesses that delivered positive experiences.

Across generations, customers respond differently to good and bad customer service experiences. Making positive connections means Baby Boomers are likely to recommend a product or service to friends and family, while Millennials are willing to spend more with a business that delivers excellent service. Poor customer service, on the other hand, will send Generation Z to social media, and Generation X might never shop with your company again

When creating your CX strategy, it's also crucial to remember the one constant that transcends age: the voice channel remains an essential part of the customer service offering.

John Eng is chief marketing officer at NewVoiceMedia. For more than 20 years, he has led marketing for large multinational firms, including LinkedIn, Parallels, and Microsoft.