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Service Excellence Across the Generations


As consumers, we can all agree excellent customer service goes a long way. But does the definition of customer service vary greatly among members of different generations? What if your customer base comes from a variety of generational backgrounds – is it possible to implement an effective customer service plan that meets everyone’s expectations?

Since great customer service largely depends on personalized service, you can implement a few strategies that take into account the needs of members of different generations. The key is learning who the predominant generational groups in the marketplace are. Once you can identify them, tailor your approach to relationship building and selling based on the following:

Traditionalists. Traditionalists are in their 70s or older and, as the name implies, have a very traditional and formal idea of how relationships with salespeople and customer service providers should operate. Traditionalists want to be respected. The easiest way to do this is to demonstrate you understand formal boundaries. Use your manners and call them Mr. or Ms., and sir or ma’am – at least until they tell you to call them by their first name. When selling them a product or service, appeal to their pragmatism rather than their emotions. Take your time and listen to them. Traditionalists don’t want a quick, flashy presentation followed by high-pressure selling techniques. Give them the logical reasons why they need your product or service.

Baby Boomers. Baby Boomers are your customers who are now in their 50s and 60s. As a group, they appreciate being recognized and made to feel special. “Mr. Smith” was somebody’s dad, so if you know a Boomer’s first name, use it. If he shares personal information with you, try to remember it and bring it up in a later conversation. If a Boomer is a loyal customer, show him or her you appreciate their business. Give them a freebie for no reason other than to say “thanks.” If you can offer a Boomer a specialized product, service, or package, their appreciation will extend into future sales.

Generation X’ers. Generation X’ers are now in their 30s and 40s. They are clever, resourceful and technologically savvy. They are most impressed with competence and tend to have a healthy bit of skepticism. Be prepared to answer a lot of questions and back up your claims with a clear explanation of how your product or service meets their needs better than a competitor. If you have independent data or research to support your claims, you will likely have the sale. If there is a problem, don’t make excuses, just make it right. If you can quickly and efficiently address their issues, you have a returning customer.

Millennials / “Gen Y’ers”. Your Millennial customers are your youngest – in their 20s or teens. As a group, they are very optimistic and concerned about making a positive impact on the world. Being earth-friendly goes a long way with this group. Millennials are very social and are the first generation to grow up with social media – so, use it! They are also very busy and appreciate being regarded as being as smart as, or as important as, their older counterparts. Avoid talking down to them because of their age and be respectful of their time. Give them that smile and personal greeting, but don’t slow them down with a long conversation about the weather.

Sometimes the first impression is the only one you have. Have a plan in place to woo your customer during the first encounter. Taking into consideration the differences in your customers’ generational backgrounds will help you deliver an experience that will resonate with them and make you look like a star.

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