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Customer Care for All Generations
By Eileen O. Brownell   Printer Friendly Version

My parents and I do not always agree. Although we have bridged many of difference because a natural maturation process, we still have different values; standards and certainly different events have defined our make up. My parents are of the generation that remembers the great stock market crash in 1929 and then survived the Great Depression. Their friends and family served in the armed forces during World War II and remember the day Franklin D. Roosevelt died in 1945. On the other hand, I am of the Baby Boomer generation. The Korean War is only a vague recollection. My biggest memories include the integration of Little Rock High School in the 50's, the day John F. Kennedy died and the Vietnam War. Although we have similar values, my parent's customer service expectations are not necessarily exactly like mine, nor are they the same as my niece and nephew who are of Generation X.

Regardless of how old or young you are, everyone wants to be treated fairly and equally during the buying and service process. Whether our hair is naturally grayed or temporarily shades of pink, we all have the right to expect to be treated the same as the person standing beside us. That may mean your ability as a service provider being able to present information in a different manner or to appeal to our core values, which are different for each generation. Let's examine how you as a service provider can give exceptional service by understanding the needs and values of each age group.

The Veterans, Traditionalists or World War II Generation were born prior to 1943. Their core beliefs, personality and values include:

  • Everyone should adhere and conform to the same rules, regulations and policies.
  • Those who are older or individuals who are in a position of authority automatically deserve respect.
  • The bigger and more grand the better.
  • Patience is of the utmost importance.
  • Personal pleasure is secondary to your job responsibilities and tasks.
  • The job comes first and personal sacrifices may be necessary to complete the task at hand.

While the other generations may view the Veterans as narrow minded, dictatorial and rigid, they are still important customers. Almost everyone serving them will be of a younger generation. In order to win them over as a lifetime customers consider providing service in the following manner:

  • Always provide consistent service. What you are willing to provide for one customer, be willing to provide for all. If your business has policies and regulations, then they must be there for a purpose. Be sure to enforce them equally for everyone. Make them feel special by remembering their name. Be sure to honor them by calling them Mr. or Mrs., or sir and ma'am.
  • Thank them for their patronage with a personal handwritten note. Form letters do not cut it with this generation. They want and expect the personal touch.
  • Be patient with them. They do not move as fast as they once did. They may be hard of hearing and their eyesight is not what it once was. Give them plenty of time to make a decision, but also pay attention to them while they are making their choice.
  • Be personable and show genuine interest in them as a person. Many of these individuals have lost spouses, friends and children. They can be lonely. A little extra attention and interest in them as a person is greatly appreciated.
  • They believe in paying cash rather then using plastic. Additionally, since they are Depression survivors, they tend to be conservative in how they spend their money. Do not expect an extravagant tip regardless of how great your service was.
  • Make a big deal over them. Remember, Traditionalists like things on a big and grandiose scale. The bigger the better and the more attention they attract, the happier they are.

The Baby Boomers or Boomers were born between 1943 and 1960. Their core beliefs, personality and values include:

  • If it's not working, either fix it or move on and find something better.
  • Personal growth, health and wellness are extremely important.
  • They have a tendency to be optimistic.
  • They believe they are the star and deserve center stage regardless of the situation.
  • Spirituality is very important to them.

Other generations may well view the Boomers as self-absorbed, workaholics who follow fads. Currently in their 40's and 50's these individuals will continue to spend in the market place for many years to come. If you want to keep them as lifetime customers, be sure to provide customer service that:

  • Treats them as individuals, not just another client. Be personable. They place a great deal of value on personal relationships that grow with time.
  • Be solution oriented. If you cannot fix something be honest and then offer alternatives. Boomers value their time and want solutions now, not later.
  • Do not tell a Boomer what they can do. Ask them what they want done or accomplished.
  • Make them feel special. They were the first generation to grow up on television. The little black and white tube focused on them and their childhood dreams and wishes you would keep them coming back if they believe they really are one of your favorite customers.
  • Admire their appearance and physical stature. This generation takes great pride in their appearance. Be complimentary and genuine.
  • Look on the brighter side of every situation. Since Baby Boomers tend to be optimistic, always express appreciation for what you have learned from them or how a challenging situation will help improve your service in the future.
  • Appeal to their spiritual nature as well as your industries cutting-edge approach or product. They want the most current and up to date products.

Generation X, Baby Busters or Twenty-something's were born between 1960 and 1980. Their core beliefs, personality and values include:

  • A need to be self-reliant.
  • Family and friends are extremely important to this generation.
  • Tend to be informal and look for fun in every situation.
  • Treating everyone as an equal regardless if you are the company president or a janitor.
  • A tendency to be skeptical.
  • A healthy respect and knowledge of technology.

Other generations may view the X'ers as disrespectful, rude and lacking in social skills. This generation has many buying years left in them. If you want them to do business with your company then consider providing them with following service.

  • Show interest in their family and friends. Admire their children if they are tagging along, or their pictures are prominently displayed on their desk. This is a generation who played second fiddle to their parent's jobs, and lasting relationships are important to them.
  • Show respect in an informal manner. This generation will steer clear of using sir and ma'am when addressing others and expects you to do the same.
  • Treat them as an equal regardless of their appearance, age, sex, sexuality or ethnicity.
  • Approach all situations in a relaxed and informal manner. The greater the formality shown in any situation, the more uncomfortable they will be.
  • Allow them plenty of time to ask questions and obtain information. Since they tend to be skeptical, this indicates to them, you have nothing to hide.
  • Whenever possible use modern technology to demonstrate your product, services, provide information or address their concerns.
  • Keep written information and forms at a minimum. Their preference for technology has decreased their desire to read. Make sure the written information you present is direct, to the point and can be scanned easily.

The Next'ers, Generation Y or Internet Generation were born between 1980 and 2000. Their core beliefs, personality and values include:

  • Optimists much like the Boomers.
  • Street smarts that previous generations do not have and it comes at a fairly early age.
  • They have grown up in the computer age and many cannot remember a home without this technology.
  • Achievement oriented, they are also strong believers in civic duty.
  • Flexibility is learned early since many come from divorced families that shared parenting at separate homes.

Other generations may view the Next'ers as undisciplined spoiled brats who require too much attention. If you want them to consider doing business with your company over their lifetime then provide them with the following service.

  • Unlike their parents from the Generation X or Boomers, these young people like to spend money. If it's functional (a pager) or enhances their image (including tattoos, hair coloring or body piecing) they are likely to purchase the item.
  • If your business makes donations to non-profit organizations directly because of their purchase, they are likely to buy since they have such a strong sense of civic mindedness.
  • Appeal to their technical savvy. Most of these young people have been around computers since they were born. If it makes life more convenient, easier or is the latest in technology, they will probably want it.
  • Be flexible in your selling style or create alternatives for them to choose from. Remember, they have been forced to learn flexibility at an early age and want to work and deal with people who are also flexible.
  • Do not try to con these shoppers. Because of naturally learned street smarts at an early age, they can spot a phony a mile away.

There is no sure fired way to sell to anyone because of his or her age or generation. The previously mentioned overview of each generation and customer service guidelines are precisely that; guidelines to assist you in providing the best possible customer care to individuals from 9 to 90. Nothing however will ever surpass kind and equal treatment to each and every customer you serve.

For permission to print Customer Care for All Generations in your company newsletter or professional journal contact Eileen.

Copyright © 2000 Eileen O. Brownell. All Rights Reserved.


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