Customer Service Excellence Across All Generations

Excellent customer service starts with empathy, patience, and understanding your customers' needs. To deliver this, it is critical for a service representative to understand how consumers think and react to a conversation. One major factor that determines the course and outcome of a conversation is the generational difference when dealing with a customer. This may be the first time in history that customer service representatives are tasked with dealing with customers from five generations. Because of this, it is not possible to have one approach for all customers. Rather, a service representative needs to deploy different strategies and special forms of communication to deliver exceptional customer service across all five generations. For that, a service representative needs to be aware of the differences in the mindset of each generation and must be able to meet the expectations of each group accordingly.

Customer Service Excellence Across Generations

Photo Attribution: bananaquack & ArchMan/

From a consumer's point of view, excellent customer service goes a long way in creating a positive image about the brand, and confidence and loyalty in the brand. This will translate into profits for the company and help achieve desired business goals.

To deliver this excellent customer service, a service rep first needs to understand the five generations of customers they could be potentially dealing with, which we can name the following way:

  1. Matures
  2. Baby Boomers
  3. Generation X
  4. Millenials/Generation Y
  5. Generation Z

Customer Service for the Mature Generation

They are today's oldest living generation who were born before 1945.

The Mature Generation Characteristics

  • They can have a false assumption that they have knowledge of everything, and they might often refuse to agree with your suggestions easily.
  • Matures may have many regrets in their life, a bucket list of things they wish they have done or they have to do, many experiences that they want to share and assume you will want to hear about them.
  • Old age is like their second childhood.
  • They can be demanding, exaggerating, and sometimes annoying, but in the end, what they long for is personal attention.

What Matures Expect When They Call Customer Service

We cannot assume them as computer illiterate but late adopters of technology, and this might confuse and overwhelm them. When they contact a customer service representative, they might expect complete guidance about your product with little to no research being done beforehand. Their conversations can be long and might require detailed explanations of your product, which can be done through screen sharing and remote assistant tools. Giving them time, personal attention, and listening to them patiently is the only way to win over the trust of this generation of customers.

Customer Service for the Baby Boomers

Psychographics of Baby Boomers

Baby boomers are the major spenders in the U.S. economy. We estimated them to be around 80 to 90 million among the total population of the U.S.A with the millennials heeling them in terms of population. This generation was born between 1946 and 1964, which included the time of The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. During this period, they were still children, and the influence of events then taught them to be hardworking and to become careful spenders.

Baby Boomers Characteristics

  • They can be silent and known to work within the system and not against it.
  • They are usually optimistic, with a can-do-it-yourself attitude.
  • They can be competitive, goal-oriented, with a stable mindset.
  • Unlike other generations, they often prefer on-call or face-to-face conversations.
  • This generation is typically less formal than the Matures and early adopters of technology.
  • Baby boomers like to dig deeper into issues and try to fix it themselves, but if they do not find any solution, they expect answers to be available 24/7.

What Is the Baby Boomer Culture? What Do They Value?

Unlike any other generation, baby boomers value relationships the most. They like spending time with their family and friends the most. Baby boomers desire quality and excellence and are ready to pay top dollars for commodities that they presume are high in value.

What Do Baby Boomers Want When They Call Customer Service?

  • Before they call a customer service representative, baby boomers normally would have completed most of the research about your product.
  • Because of their busy lifestyle, baby boomers expect a service representative to be precise and available 24/7 to provide resolution to their queries.
  • They are the first generation of consumers and like any other generation; they generally expect to be treated with respect.
  • When dealing with this generation, avoid using slang words and abbreviations. Avoid using words like "elderly" or "old" while trying to show respect. This might otherwise hurt the customer and make them feel out of the league.
  • Using unclear words or abbreviations might create a sense of doubt in the customers' minds, thus misunderstanding the product, and you might end up with a confused customer who has lost interest in the purchase.
  • Avoid using irrelevant clickbait, and try to use contrasting fonts and big buttons, especially for mobile websites, as a majority of baby boomers use glasses.
  • Baby boomers are used to brick-and-mortar stores and are less confident about using online stores. Providing personalized customer service, and rewarding with loyalty points and regular follow-ups after-sales, can go a long way in creating confidence and loyalty.

Customer Service for Generation X

What is Gen X Known For?

Anyone born between 1965 -1981 is considered as Generation X. We consider them as the middle bridge between the silent baby boomers and millennials. They are more straightforward and task-oriented. They usually prefer job security, which accustomed them to the 9 to 5 model of earning.

Generation X Characteristics

  • Gen X is typically more patient, more accepting of criticism, and this doesn't keep them up the entire night with grief.
  • Unlike millennials, they were not raised under the influence of the internet, but they had access to the internet and smartphone only in their adulthood, so they have lived a hybrid life and are mostly computer literate, independent and self-reliant.

What Generation X Expects When They Call Customer Service

A customer from this generation expects a customer service representative to be honest with them. They search for value in what your product is offering and simply do not fall for what you say. They take time researching your product, reading through your product reviews, and searching for social proof about your product.

To work with this generation, consider the following:

  • A customer rep should have complete knowledge related to the product, should be able to provide social proof of the product, and provide fast and effective solutions.
  • Rewarding someone for being loyal, with short and long-term rewards, goes a long way in saying thank you to a customer without actually saying it.
  • Also as noted previously, this generation will research online on a wide range of social media platforms and search for social proof of your product. Facebook is the most used platform by Gen X, followed by LinkedIn and Instagram. Consequently, leveraging these social media platforms by the company to promote their product can make a customer service representative's task much easier.

Customer Service for Millennials (Gen Y)

Millennial customers are those born between 1985 and 2004. They are today's adults or in their 20s and number around 76 million, forming a large part of the U.S population.

Millennials Characteristics

Millennials are usually:

  • Fun-loving
  • Tech-savvy
  • Cheerful
  • Demanding of respect and recognition

Millennials Customer Service Expectations

  • Quick and Accessible Customer Service

    A Millennial customer can be impatient and prefer convenience, so they are ready to pay a high price in return. They expect round-the-clock availability of customer service from a company through any accessible channel from chatbots to Facebook Messenger.

  • Personalization

    A Millennial customer is ready to share their sensitive information in order to receive a personalized experience from a company. They expect a company to have their information and service history secure and accessible so that they could provide it whenever the customer needs it.

Millennials and Customer Service Interaction

To manage millennial customers, consider the following:

  • A customer service representative should give them respect and never look down on them because of their age.
  • Acknowledge your mistakes and do not make excuses.
  • Using the internet, they usually conduct thorough research on your product and its competitors and contact a customer service representative only as a last option, so they can easily single out any false claim made by a customer service representative.
  • Greet them with a smile, be precise and accurate, acknowledge their smartness, and make them feel valued.

Customer Service for Generation Z

This is the youngest generation of customers born between 1995 to 2010. They have been exposed to the internet and social media networks from a very young age and have grown up under its influence, so they can be called "the true products of the internet". Therefore, their major source of knowledge is the internet. Many Gen Zers received little to no attention from their parents because of their parent's busy schedules, so they resorted to the virtual world to compensate for that. This generation normally trusts most information that is available on the internet, believes in the virtual world, and often prefers virtual relationships over their families.

Gen Z Characteristics

  • The Gen Zers, do not prefer to be identified through one stereotype but would rather like to explore different ways that can shape their identities.
  • They often think they are religious and prefer to follow their parents' religion, but they are open to incorporating broader beliefs into their declared religion.
  • Gen Zers are frequently open to dialogues and discussions with parents or institutions having different ideas and values rather than outrightly rejecting them but often find it difficult to convince them, and they can be quite analytical, not just accepting things because someone said they should.
  • They are usually ready to stand for any cause or interest that might even conflict with their belief if they feel the cause is right.

Gen Z Customer Service Expectations

Millennial customers may be the first to embrace the online retail space disrupting the brick and mortar stores, but we expect Gen Z to take it further because of increased trust in the online space, personalized experience, and the pandemic. As we expect them to emerge as the largest workforce in near future, and considering their influence on their parents' money, we expect them to become the largest consumers.

To connect with this largest consumer group of the future, a customer service representative should

  • Focus on personalization
  • Adopt an omnichannel approach
  • Make sure that the company has its presence on social media platforms
  • Do not patronize or try to "con" them, as quite probably they will see right through you

Conclusion: Understanding the Generations for Customer Service Excellence

Customer service is not just about having a conversation with someone—it's the art of bringing along a complete stranger at any stage of the sales funnel without demanding, insulting, or being pushy. To master this art, customer service representatives need to be trained in the nuances of service delivery, which in this era includes understanding the generational differences among all your customers. Understanding these differences and implementing a tailored customer service initiative will keep a high rate of customer satisfaction across your customer spectrum, contributing positively to your company's bottom line.